Do Planners Get it Right? The Accuracy of Travel Demand Forecasting in Norway
This paper deals with the accuracy of travel demand forecasts among Norwegian road projects. We use data collected from tolled roads and toll free roads. The results reveal that while traffic forecasts of tolled schemes are fairly accurate, traffic forecasts among toll free roads have a higher degree of inaccuracy and are generally underestimated. An explanation for the observed discrepancy between estimated and actual traffic among toll free roads is that road planners may have ignored the existence of induced traffic and that the standard national traffic growth rates used in the transport models has been too low. For tolled roads, an explanation for the higher degree of forecast accuracy is that planners over the years have been scrutinized to provide careful estimates. Our recommendation is that traffic forecasts provided by planners should constantly be subjected to scrutiny by independent consultants before being presented to the decision makers. Aspects that need to be specifically examined include: (1) the extent to which a road project may lead to induced traffic, (2) the extent to which transport models accommodate appropriate factors and, (3) the extent to which forecasts made address uncertainties by providing confidence intervals of estimates.