Americans are driving less: the state-by-state story

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Per capita rates of vehicle miles traveled have fallen, and the recession is not the only reason. A U.S. PIRG report examines the end of the "driving boom."

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  • In this EcoWest presentation, we explore the state-by-state story behind the recent decline in driving in the United States.
  • Narrative: During a sixty-year “Driving Boom,” Americans increased their driving nearly every year since 1946. Per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) peaked in 2004 nationally, and in 2002 in the West. There are only four states (North Dakota, Nevada, Louisiana, and Alabama) where driving miles per capita in 2011 were above their 2004 or 2005 levels. Since 2005, several states—including Alaska, Delaware, Oregon, Georgia, Wyoming, and South Carolina—have actually seen double-digit percent reductions in per capita VMT. Source: “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving” (U.S. PIRG, 2013)URL: http://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/Moving_Off_the_Road_USPIRG.pdf
  • Narrative: At the regional level, individuals drove the fewest number of miles in the Northeast, followed by the West. Within the West, residents in Washington state recorded the lowest VMT (8,339 miles in 2011), while Wyoming residents accounted for the highest VMT (16,272 miles). Source: “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving” (U.S. PIRG, 2013)URL: http://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/Moving_Off_the_Road_USPIRG.pdf
  • Narrative:U.S. PIRG examined multiple variables – including population density, median household income, and frequency of working from home – in an attempt to explain the differences in per capita driving across states. It found only a rough correlation between more urban populations and lower VMT. Annually, residents in urban areas drive roughly 9,930 miles, whereas those in rural areas drive an average of 14,850 miles. Source: “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving” (U.S. PIRG, 2013)URL: http://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/Moving_Off_the_Road_USPIRG.pdf
  • Narrative: Nationally, annual VMT per capita peaked in the year 2004, on average. Among states in the West, VMT per capita peaked in 2002, on average. At the state-by-state level, Oregon observed the highest percent decline in VMT since its peak year in 2009. Source: “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving” (U.S. PIRG, 2013)URL: http://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/Moving_Off_the_Road_USPIRG.pdf
  • Narrative: This map shows traffic volume trends by region using data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Nationally, VMT decreased by 0.4% for June 2013, as compared with June 2012. The sharpest decrease was seen in the North Central region, with a decline of 1.5% between June 2012 and June 2013. The West showed the sharpest increase in VMT during the same time period, with an increase of 1.1%. Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration URL: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/travel_monitoring/13juntvt/index.cfmNote: The U.S. DOT includes both Hawaii and Alaska in its calculations for the West. Traditionally, EcoWest analysis includes only the 11 contiguous Western states, excluding Hawaii and Alaska.
  • Narrative: The report examined the relationship between the economy and the decline in driving. As this figure demonstrates, per capita driving and national GDP moved in tandem throughout the Driving Boom (1960s to early 2000s). At the beginning of the 21st century, the two metrics decoupled: GDP continued to increase, while driving declined or remained steady.Source: “A New DirectionOur Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future” (U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group, Spring 2013) URL: http://www.uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/A%20New%20Direction%20vUS.pdf
  • Narrative: The U.S. government forecasts a steady increase in annual driving, with a projected increase in the range of 44%-67% in miles driven by 2040. The U.S. PIRG created its own scenarios for the future of driving, all of which predict lower VMT trend lines than government forecasts. The observed VMT during 2010-2013 shows that Americans are already driving fewer miles than was forecasted by the government only a few years ago. Source: “A New DirectionOur Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future” (U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group, Spring 2013) URL: http://www.uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/A%20New%20Direction%20vUS.pdf
  • Americans are driving less: the state-by-state story

    1. 1. Americans are driving less: the state-by-state story 9/24/2013
    2. 2. Percent change in VMT by state, 2005-2011 9/24/2013 2Source: U.S. PIRG
    3. 3. Annual vehicle-miles traveled per capita, 2011 9/24/2013 3Source: U.S. PIRG
    4. 4. Percent of Urban Population and VMT by State 9/24/2013 4Source: U.S. PIRG As urban density increases, VMT tends to decrease.
    5. 5. VMT Per Capita Decline by State, in West 9/24/2013 5 0% 2% 4% 6% 8% 10% 12% 14% 16% 18% 20% Percent decline in vehicle miles traveled per person since peak year Percent decline in vehicle miles traveled per person since peak year Source: U.S. PIRG Among states in the West, the average year in which VMT peaked was 2002.
    6. 6. Traffic Volume Trends by Region 9/24/2013 6 West 57.4 1.1% North Central 59.6 -1.5% Northeast 36.8 -1.3% South Atlantic 53.0 -1.3% South Gulf 51.4 0.2% Figures indicate VMT (in billions) by region. Percentages show change in traffic between June 2012 and June 2013. Source: U.S. Department of Transportation
    7. 7. Gross Domestic Product and Per Capita Driving 9/24/2013 7Source: FHWA; Bureau of Economic Analysis; Census Bureau. GDP and the volume of driving moved together during the Driving Boom, before diverging around the year 2000.
    8. 8. Scenarios of Future Vehicle Miles Traveled 9/24/2013 8 “Conditions and Performance,” U.S. Dept. of Transportation, 2010. “Paving Our Way,” National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Committee, 2009 . “Annual Energy Outlook 2013,” U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2012. “Back to the Future” Scenario: driving will revert to peak levels and grow with population. Actual Vehicle Miles Traveled “Enduring Shift” Scenario: the reduction in driving will be sustained, as today’s driving habits continue into the future. “Ongoing Decline” Scenario: the recent decline in driving is the beginning of a deeper change in transportation patterns. U.S. Government Forecasts of Future Driving Patterns U.S. PIRG Three Scenarios of Future Driving Source: U.S. PIRG VehicleMilesTraveled(Millions) Forecasts from the U.S. government project a continued increase in VMT, whereas scenario analysis from the U.S. PIRG predict lower rates in VMT.
    9. 9. ecowest.org Download more slides and other resources 9/24/2013 9

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