3.1 trillion miles driven on American roads in 2015 – a record!

360px-CBX_Parkchester_6_jeh[1]With the nation’s unemployment rate weighing in at somewhere around 5 percent at the close of 2015, this would suggest an economy much recovered from that at the height of the Great Recession when the percentage of those unemployed reached into the double digits.

Meanwhile, in the period of time between 2008 and approximately 2012, according to Federal Highway Administration, Office of Highway Policy Information data, U.S. driving miles likewise took a nose dive, dipping from 3.031124 trillion miles in 2007 to 2.945815 trillion miles in 2011, after which aggregate miles driven (or vehicle miles traveled) began a steady climb.

Starting in 2007, year over year driving figures (in trillions of vehicle miles traveled) are as such:

  • 2007 – 3.031
  • 2008 – 2.977
  • 2009 – 2.957
  • 2010 – 2.967
  • 2011 – 2.946
  • 2012 – 2.969
  • 2013 – 2.988
  • 2014 – 3.041
  • 2015 – 3.148

(Source: “Traffic Volume Trends, December 2015,” U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Highway Policy Information).

Now add to this that the housing market, to a large degree, has since recovered, the fact that car sales as of late have been fairly brisk, all complemented by falling gas prices – the kinds of prices not seen in decades.

And this is a concern because?

Several reasons. For starters, a statement released by the Texas A&M University’s Transportation Institute (TTI) in reference to its 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, indicated “travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours – 42 hours per rush-hour commuter. The total nationwide price tag: $160 billion, or $960 per commuter.”

In a word (or two), the level of congested traffic again mirrors that present during pre-Great Recessionary times, according to TTI.

“The problem has become so bad in major urban areas,” TTI announced, “that drivers have to plan more than twice as much travel time as they would need to arrive on time in light traffic just to account for the effects of irregular delays such as bad weather, collisions, and construction zones.”

But, it isn’t just this. Adds TTI: “Cities of all sizes are experiencing the challenges seen before the start of the recession – increased traffic congestion resulting from growing urban populations and lower fuel prices are outpacing the nation’s ability to build infrastructure. … The result, the average travel delay per commuter nationwide is more than twice what it was in 1982. For cities of less than 500,000 people, the problem is four times worse than in 1982.”

So, what does all of this mean regarding motor vehicles’ contribution to air pollution?

Think of it this way: For each gallon of gasoline burned in an internal-combustion engine, 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide is released in the atmosphere. And, if the vast majority of vehicles transiting America’s roads are of the internal-combustion-engine type, well, in doing the math this speaks volumes. And, that’s just as it has to do with releases of CO2.

Published by Alan Kandel