American land-based traffic and travel profile – 2014

Just as I suspected: The amount of driving in the U.S. is up … again, only this time the year is 2014.

360px-CBX_Parkchester_6_jeh[1]According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Office of Highway Policy Information the aggregate number of miles driven was 3.0156 trillion. This is up from 2.9656 trillion miles in 2013 or an increase of almost 1.7 percent or around 50.041 billion miles. Indicators point to the sharp decline in the price of gasoline in 2014’s latter half as a main driving factor. I would as well surmise that a rebounding economy coupled with a drop in the number of unemployed, contributed to the change also.

The FHWA reports that all data for Dec. 2014 are preliminary.

Going back half a year, in “More miles driven means more emissions, period, and more, not less, are driving,” I had written, “Last Friday, Aug. 29th, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) put out a press release: ‘New Data Show U.S. Driving at Highest Level in Six Years: Nearly Three Trillion Miles Traveled Over Last 12 Months Supports Call for Greater Transportation Investment,’ and in it the FHWA expressed: ‘Americans drove more than 2.97 trillion miles between July 2013 and June 2014, the most recent month for which data are available. In the first half of 2014, drivers traveled 1.446 trillion miles – the largest since 2010 and the fourth-highest in the report’s 78-year history.’

“In addition, the agency, also in the release, called for increased highway investment.”

Okay, so in referring to the FHWA’s newest “December 2014 Traffic Volume Trends: Individual Monthly Motor Vehicle Travel in the U.S. for December 2014” data, 2014’s first half reveals a number that has been revised upward slightly to 1.4716 trillion miles of cumulative travel which means the number of miles driven on American roads between Jul. and Dec. 2014 totaled 1.544 trillion.

“‘Technological and demographic factors, plus urbanization and the preferences of an emerging Millennial generation all suggest that increases in driving will be slower than in past generations,’” U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Senior Analyst and Transportation Program Director, Phineas Baxandall, stated in U.S. PIRG’s “Statement on New Federal Driving Data for 2014” Mar. 12, 2015 news release. “‘The volume of driving could be even lower if public policies in coming years give Americans more choices about whether or not to drive.’”

More choices that include public transportation among them.

Speaking of which, with the uptick in roadway miles traveled came an increase in transit usage. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced in a Mar. 9, 2015 news release 10.8 billion trips were made on public transportation in 2014. This is 100 million more trips taken on America’s buses and trains than were taken in 2013. That’s a percentage increase of nearly 1 percent. This was reported on in: “Record 10.8 Billion Trips Taken on U.S. Public Transportation in 2014: The Highest Transit Ridership in 58 Years.”

The biggest gains were experienced on rail-based transit modes: light rail, heavy rail and commuter rail. The category light rail includes in it modern light rail, streetcars, trolleys and heritage trolleys while heavy rail includes subways and elevated trains.

“Some of the public transit agencies reporting record ridership system-wide were located in the following cities: Albany, NY; Boston, MA; Canton, OH; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Indianapolis, IN; Madison, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Olympia, WA; Orlando, FL; St. Petersburg, FL; Riverside, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Spokane, WA; Tampa, FL; and Wenatchee, WA,” noted the APTA in release.

“Noting that public transit ridership increased even when gas prices declined by 42.9 cents in the fourth quarter, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said, ‘Despite the steep decline in gas prices at the end of last year, public transit ridership increased. This shows that once people start riding public transit, they discover that there are additional benefits besides saving money.’”

Benefits such as cleaner air to name an important one.

Trinity Railway Express train, “The T” Bus, Intermodal Transportation Center, Ft. Worth
Trinity Railway Express train, “The T” Bus, Intermodal Transportation Center, Ft. Worth

Bottom image above: W. R. Howell, Jr.

– Alan Kandel

2 thoughts on “American land-based traffic and travel profile – 2014”

  1. Public transit is a transportation stepchild. Somehow it is not part of the vision of politicians. In Orlando the downtown is almost inaccessible when public events are scheduled. Instead of the creation of a light rail system which had federal funding over ten years ago we opted for a modest heavy rail corridor along an existing r.o.w. and now we are expanding an interstate which already bisects the city. The governor also turned down HSR to Tampa. The banality of it all defies imagination. We need to send all politicians abroad to open up their eyes to possibilities that they presently are unable to imagine.

    • I’ve written quite a lot about public transportation-related matters. Upon reading the reports regarding public transit usage in the U.S., it always seems the biggest percentage increases are on rail-based transit systems – bus versus train. As a matter of fact, from the referenced APTA press release above, transit bus ridership experienced a decline in 2014 by 1.1 percent.

      As for high-speed rail, I had high hopes of this being a reality in Florida. I was disappointed when that project, along with others in Wisconsin and Ohio, fell by the wayside. In California, meanwhile, where I reside, a high-speed rail groundbreaking – rail signing, actually – was held in Fresno on Jan. 6th this year, marking the 800-mile system’s official start of construction here. Actual construction has yet to commence although some preparatory work has been in the works for a while. So, there has been some progress made.

      For me, the need to reduce the amount of pollution in the air is de rigueur. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Finding the most effective ways to do this while at the same time not negatively impacting the economy is what should be strived for – period. In the transportation arena, investment in public transit and rail-based public transit in particular, is the way to go as I believe this will yield the biggest bang for the buck if done prudently.

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