Just as I suspected: The amount of driving in the U.S. is up … again, only this time the year is 2014.
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.
Bottom image above: W. R. Howell, Jr.