Wednesday, December 17, 2008

U.S. Drivers Are Getting Off the Road... (and hopefully out of their Hummers?)

People in the United States drove 3.5% fewer miles in October 2008 than they did in October 2007, making October the twelfth consecutive month of year-to-year declines in U.S. vehicle miles traveled, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). From November 2007 to October 2008, U.S. residents drove 100 billion fewer miles than the year before, marking the largest ever continuous decline in U.S. driving. October alone saw a year-to-year drop of 8.9 billion vehicle miles, which is the largest October decline since 1971. And while the DOT report doesn't try to explain the drop in driving, an October report from HNTB Companies says the decrease is partly due to a shift toward public transportation.

A nationwide poll showed that more than 24 million U.S. residents—11% of the adult population—are using public transportation more than they did last year, and 16% say they expect to increase their ridership in the coming year. Although many were motivated by high gasoline prices, they also discovered the convenience, traffic avoidance, and environmental benefits of public transit. Heck, even Obama plans to use transit to get to his own inauguration!

Maybe we'll see a better funding mechanism from the Federal government that doesn't support highways as much as 80-90% while expecting public transportation programs to be self sufficient economically. Public transportation projects are often entirely locally funded or receive in the neighborhood of 10% Federal funding. A huge dichotomy. I've said it before and I will say it again: public dollars should go to public transportation. Highways are enormously subsidized by our tax dollars and yet don't benefit the public in a very even way. Only people who can afford cars benefit from highways while anyone should be able to get on a safe and reliable transit system ('should' being the operable word here).


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