Imagine that you
have a computerized home business that tracks truck routes and auctions
off truck space to various companies that need help delivering their
products all over the nation. You feel good about your business because
it increases transportation efficiency. It puts on the road a larger
number of fully loaded trucks and fewer half-empty ones. You also feel
good because you do your banking online and download most of the books,
videos, and music that you want from the Internet. That means you are
not driving to your bank and several stores; instead you're saving fuel
and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Nevertheless,
you are ordering groceries, clothes, and household items online, so
you're partly responsible for the increase in delivery truck traffic
in what used to be a quiet neighborhood.
yourself many times over and you can see why ORNL's Center for Transportation
Analysis (CTA) and the Transportation Research Board co-sponsored a
workshop on the "Impacts of the New Digital Economy on Transportation:
Developing Research and Data Needs." As a result of the workshop held
September 14 and 15, 2000, in Washington, D.C., Pat Hu, director of
CTA, is developing a research agenda and identifying the data needed
to allow accurate predictions of the effects of the digital economy
on transportation with respect to planning, land use, safety, the environment,
and energy use.
Frank Southworth, Rekha Pillai, and David Middendorf, all of the CTA
in ORNL's Energy Division, recently published a white paper entitled
Potential Effects of the Digital Economy on Transportation, which
was distributed at the workshop. They evaluated business-to-business,
business-to-consumer, and consumer-to-consumer electronic commerce,
as well as telecommuting.
"We tried to identify
how e-commerce will change the demand for transportation," Hilliard
says. "Because information can be transmitted electronically, it may
be unnecessary in the future to ship as many books, videotapes, and
music CDs by Federal Express, United Parcel Service, or the U.S. Post
Office. Banking can be done online so people won't have to drive to
the bank so often. So the effect of e-commerce could be a reduction
in the driving of cars."
information, entertainment products, and money can be transmitted
electronically and shopping can be done online, electronic commerce
is expected to affect transportation needs. Photo collage by Gail
On the other hand,
Hilliard notes, if an increasing number of people do online shopping
and order groceries and other items from large discount stores online,
there will be increased demand for deliveries by truck and increased
truck traffic in residential neighborhoods, threatening the safety of
pedestrians and pets. An increase in telecommuting could create its
share of altered traffic patterns, as well. "If more people telecommute,
they may move farther from their workplace in the city," Hilliard says.
"But when they do commute to their business for occasional meetings,
they will drive farther."
needs could be reduced if community work centers networked to multiple
employers were established for telecommuters throughout the nation.
"You drive a short distance to a center that has up-to-date computer
equipment leased by your company," Hilliard says. "You do your work
at the center for your company whose headquarters are far away."
that the digital economy could impact land use. "How will the digital
economy change our cities 20 years from now?" he asks. "Will the large,
multi-purpose shopping malls of today remain popular in 20 years, or
will e-commerce make them as uncommon as they were only 40 years ago?"
to meet future transportation needs is complicated by our inability
to predict the effects of e-commerce on those needs. According to ORNL's
white paper: "With the competing forces at work in this system, it will
be challenging to determine the net effect of the changes, particularly
as the digital economy continues to grow at an exponential rate."
Center for Transportation Analysis (CTA)