U.S. driving rebounds and what could be best going forward

America’s drivers are at it again: Behind the wheel, logging more and more miles, year after year. (My driving miles are actually decreasing).

360px-CBX_Parkchester_6_jeh[1]In “2015 On Pace to Be Most Heavily Traveled Year, New Federal Data Show: U.S. Driving in November 2015 Continues Record Setting Yearpress release, in which the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) wrote: “New data released today [Jan. 22, 2016] by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) show that U.S. driving reached 2.88 trillion miles by the end of November, making it likely that U.S. drivers will make 2015 the most heavily traveled year in history.”

Not only is this news eye-opening and thought-provoking, but the implications as it has to do with emissions released into the air on account of all of this added driving, by most measures isn’t promising. In fact, it’s downright disappointing. The fact that gasoline prices are as low as they are right now – in some places under $2 per gallon, adds injury to insult. One person’s opinion, obviously – mine.

“The new data, published in FHWA’s latest ‘Traffic Volume Trends’ report – a monthly estimate of U.S. road travel – show that more than 253 billion miles were driven in November alone, reaffirming the growing demands challenging the nation’s roads and underscoring the value of the recently enacted ‘Fixing America’s Surface Transportation’ (FAST) Act, which will invest $305 billion in America’s surface transportation infrastructure – including $226 billion for roads and bridges – over the next five years.”

Twenty-fifteen’s projections, if they turn out correct, would best like numbers recorded before the recession – beginning in 2007. Incidentally, and as it relates, the number of light-duty vehicles traveling American roads, according to Michael Sivak in the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute June 2013 report: “Has Motorization in the U.S. Peaked?” in 2008 reached 236,448,000. Meanwhile, according to information coming from the same source, 208,321,000 drivers sat behind the wheels of those vehicles, representing at that time, 68.5 percent of aggregate nationwide population totaling 304,094,000 that year.1 And, a best-kept-secret – the negative effect all this increased driving activity is having on the air – this is not.

“The new figures confirm the trends identified in ‘Beyond Traffic,’ a USDOT report issued last year, which projects a 43 percent increase in commercial truck shipments and population growth of 70 million by 2045,” added the USDOT in the release. “The report examines the trends and choices facing America’s transportation infrastructure over the next three decades, including a rapidly growing population, increasing freight volume, demographic shifts in rural and urban areas, and a transportation system that is facing more frequent extreme weather events. Increased gridlock nationwide can be expected unless changes are made in the near-term.”

All of which suggests that, as a collective community, our thinking needs to be more broadly focused, that is, with respect to expanding our thinking beyond just roadway expansion- and extension-project activity. How our country develops progress-wise from here on out can make all the difference in the world.

Progress-WISE, indeed!

A quick heads up: I will plan on providing a more comprehensive report on surface transportation statistics and analysis late March or early April.


  1. Sivak, Michael, “Has Motorization in the U.S. Peaked?” UMTRI-2013-17, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, June 2013, p. 4


– Alan Kandel