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U.S. Driving Declines in 46 States

U.S Public Interest Research Group

Americans have cut their per-person driving miles in 46 states plus Washington, DC, since the middle of the last decade, according to a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund. States that saw double-digit percentage reductions in driving from their peaks last decade include: Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming and the District of Columbia.

“There’s a national decline in driving that is shared by almost every state,” said Phineas Baxandall, transportation program director for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “It’s time for policy makers to wake up and realize the driving boom is over. We need to reconsider expensive highway expansions and focus on alternatives such as public transit and biking—which people increasingly use to get around.”

The report, Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving, is based on the most current available government data. Among its findings:

  • The only states that did not see a decrease in miles driven per-person since the middle of the last decade were Alabama, Louisiana, Nevada and North Dakota.
  • Nationally, the decline in average driving miles was almost seven percent during this period and fell even further in 2012.
  • After World War II, the nation’s driving miles increased steadily almost every year, creating a “driving boom.” Driven by the growth of the suburbs, low gas prices and increased auto ownership, the boom lasted 60 years. Now, in stark contrast, the average number of miles driven by Americans is in its eight consecutive year of decline, led by declines among Millennials.
  • The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation.

According to new federal government data released Monday, driving has continued to decline over the first half of 2013. This is the eighth year in a row in which per-person driving miles have declined for the nation as a whole.

The report is based on data that is published each year by the Federal Highway Administration but that is scattered across numerous publications. Today’s study is the first major public analysis that assembles this data and uses it to compare state-by-state driving trends.

“Given these trends, we need to press the reset button on our transportation policy,” said Baxandall. “Just because past transportation investments overwhelmingly went to highway construction, doesn’t mean that continues to be the right choice for America’s future.”

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