Potential Socioeconomic Forecasts in Support of VTrans

Report No: 20-R20

Published in 2020

About the report:

In support of VTrans, this report summarizes potential changes in population, employment, and household income that are forecast from various sources and identifies potential transportation implications. Statewide, Virginia’s population is forecast to grow 24% to 33% from 2017-2045, with four regions clustered along the I-95 corridor (roughly the planning district commissions [PDCs] of Northern Virginia, George Washington, and Richmond Regional) and the eastern portion of the I-64 corridor (Hampton Roads)accounting for 83% to 85% of this growth. Employment is also forecast to grow statewide from 18% to 44%, with the same PDCs accounting for 80% to 87% of new jobs by 2045.  Household income is forecast to increase, in real dollars, by 25% to 38%.  These forecasts do not account for unexpected shocks: a case study with a sudden arrival of a large employer (not anticipated in the original forecasts) suggests that the affected PDCs’ 2045 forecasts for employment and population are increased by 3% and 6%, respectively.  

Virginia forecasts reflect the observation that uncertainty for employment forecasts is greater than that of population forecasts.  Examination of two different forecast sources for 2017-2045 shows that the difference for expected population growth (9) is smaller than the difference for expected employment growth (27%).  Virginia historical data also show employment is more volatile than population:  for all nine VDOT districts, average annual employment growth rates for the period 1975-2000 exceeded those for the period 2000-2017; the same was applicable for population (except for the case of the VDOT Lynchburg District).  However, the average difference in the employment growth rates for these two periods (about 2.80%) was much larger than the average difference in the population growth rates (about 0.35%). 

These socioeconomic changes have the potential to affect the need for travel in Virginia.  Although aggregate population and employment increases generally correspond to an increase in travel demand, the types of population and employment changes may affect how this demand is met.  Virginia’s population age 65+ is forecast to increase from 1.27 million to between 1.99 million and 2.26 million from 2017-2045.  Although persons age 75+are a relatively small percentage of the state’s population at present (6%),this group is expected to grow by 104% to 150%, becoming 10% to 11% of the total state’s population.  This has implications for how travel is provided for seniors, affecting dimensions such as pedestrian facilities, support for aging in place, transit options, driving options, and demand for new technologies such as driverless vehicles.  Employment growth is also uneven by sector; for instance, professional and technical services employment, which presently is associated with longer commute times than for most other employment, is expected to grow 31% to 61% from 2017-2045 (statewide), but this varies greatly by region (e.g., increases of 67% to 89% are forecast for Richmond Regional compared to increases of 27% to 34% for West Piedmont), suggesting uneven impacts in travel demand throughout Virginia.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.

Authors

Other Authors

Haritha Bhairavabhatla, Amy A. O’Leary, Ph.D., Maddison A. Gasse, 

Last updated: November 9, 2023

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