Driving’s Down; Can Someone Tell the Government?

For the ninth year in a row, the average American is driving less, according to new data from the Federal Highway Administration. Can someone please let our legislators know?

After a decade of stagnating driving levels, little has changed at the state level. State departments of transportation (the agencies responsible for spending tens of billions of federal transportation dollars every year) continue to work with out-dated models that predict endless growth in driving. Despite strong evidence that the decline in driving is the new normal, states continue to waste tax-payer money on unnecessary roads.

There are a few exceptions, namely Washington, Illinois, and Maryland. According to Chris McCahill of the research team at the State Smart Transportation Initiative, Maryland initially thought the decline in driving was a temporary result of high fuel prices and the recession, but last month changed its plan to reflect that the stagnation in driving is likely permanent.

Some reasons for the long-term decrease in driving include:

  • The cost of maintaining, fueling, storing and insuring a car has become more expensive

  • The baby boomer generation is retiring, and thus, driving less

  • Younger Americans are choosing walking, biking, and public transit over driving

  • Liveable, walkable streets are becoming more common, and people are taking advantage of that infrastructure

California, like the majority of American states, needs to reevaluate its long-term plans for transportation and prioritize active transportation, which is gaining traction and creating safer, healthier and more prosperous communities for all.

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