Transportation

Vehicle Miles Traveled & Hours of Delay

Worsened less than 1 percent from
2015 to 2016

How are we doing?

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and hours of delay received a thumbs-down because, while estimated daily freeway VMT by San Diegan commuters stayed nearly the same from 2015 to 2016, vehicle hours of delay per commuter continued to rise. Estimated daily freeway VMT for San Diegans stayed at 28 miles per commuter in 2016 while those same commuters are spending over 18 hours a year in traffic, nearly an hour and a half more than in 2015. San Diegans travel more vehicle miles annually per commuter than the state average and other major urban counties. See more information.

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) was nearly the same in San Diego with preliminary numbers showing a slight decrease from 28.7 miles in 2015 to 28.3 in 2016. San Diegans (in green) have the highest VMT compared to other major California urban metro areas.

*2016 data is preliminary
Data Sources: California Department of Transportation, Mobility Performance Report, 2017; U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2016

Why is it important?

  • Reducing VMT and hours of delay can help the economy. Research shows housing values increase in walkable neighborhoods, and savings on fuel costs can go back into the local economy, supporting job growth. It also allows for spending more time with family and friends, improving health and quality of life.
  • More VMT adds to air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. See the Climate Action section for more information.

Estimated San Diego County vehicle hours of delay per commuter continued to rise from 16.6 hours a year in 2015 to over 18 hours in 2016.

*2016 data is preliminary
Data Sources: California Department of Transportation, Mobility Performance Report, 2017; U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2016

  Idea for Change

Policymakers should do more to incorporate mobility hubs, smart growth and transit-oriented development into community planning. Local jurisdictions should include such elements in general plans or implement existing policies to ensure that development patterns keep population and job centers aligned to minimize VMT. Leadership from regional planning entities is vital in providing guidance and incentives to local jurisdictions to help ensure wider adoption of these principles. Learn more.

  Bright Spot

The U.S. Department of Transportation is testing autonomous vehicles in the San Diego region. The region was selected as one of the 10 official sites for developing and testing self-driving car technologies. The pilot studies, headed by SANDAG, Caltrans, and the City of Chula Vista, are meant to encourage information sharing and collaboration within the private sector to advance safe deployment of autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles may help to reduce VMT when integrated into the ride share space by helping to offset emissions from drivers waiting around for passengers, or drivers stuck in traffic. Learn more.

  What are we measuring?

We measure the yearly change in average freeway miles driven per commuter daily in select counties since 2006, as well as average hours of delay for San Diego County commuters monthly since 2012. Learn more about the data.