U.S. driving popular way back when, even more so now

360px-CBX_Parkchester_6_jeh[1]As much as automobilists loathe congestion, at the same time driving in America never seems to go out of style. In fact, American motoring is anything but yesterday’s news as it appears to be more popular than ever before.

Two different stories (a commentary and a traditional news report) appearing in this past Sunday’s The Fresno Bee, had to do with automatic mobility of the rubber-tired kind.

The commentary, by The Sacramento Bee op-ed writer Dan Walters, focused on the notion that in the Golden State – California – efforts here to limit, reduce driving, in Walters’ view, are failing. The Sacramento Bee columnist gave some supportive statistics.

Such as:

  • Licensed automobilists total 26 million in state
  • New car and truck purchases statewide weigh in at over 2 million each year – a near-record, and
  • The number of miles Californians drive annually is 330 billion, twice the amount logged in the mid-1970s

And, use of public transit here has been falling off, the Bee columnist added.

One of the points (an important point?) not covered in this particular opinion piece is lower gas prices and what, if any, corresponding impact this may have had on driving, sales of new vehicles, and transit ridership.

Could it be that all the added in-state driving, the uptick in the number of California new vehicle sales, and a slacking off in transit use within the state’s borders is a direct result of the price of fuel being at the level it is? Has Walters considered that?

New York Times writer Bill Vlasic has in the news report he authored. And, not only was that aspect considered but several others also, the overarching theme in this instance having to do with vehicle fuel-economy ratings.

Vlasic, in this regard, gives a progress report. The Times writer, in relying on U.S. new vehicle fuel economy mileage data sourced from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, went on to state how vehicle fuel economy had improved, climbing to 24.3 mpg in 2014, which was up 26 percent from 2004’s then new vehicle mileage ratings. He, however, also related that since reaching a real-world-driving-average peak of 25.8 miles per gallon in Aug. 2014, vehicle fuel efficiency retreated to an average 25.2 mpg in Jan. and Feb. this year.

Meanwhile, in regard to the producing of automobiles and trucks that overall will attain a target 54.5 mpg average in 2025, Vlasic seems to be suggesting in effect that automakers will have a tough time of it. In other words, they’ll have their work cut out.

What I see in all of this is more driving, more fuel being guzzled by a of cohort of mobile power vehicles whose fuel economy ratings seem to be going in reverse, the very same that take up the finite amount of roadway space there is (in the U.S., 4 million lane-miles overall), resulting in more congestion, all of it no doubt causing added roadway wear and tear, all of which contributes to a lessening in the quality of the air.

Why? Because, according to Vlasic, fewer and fewer of those new vehicles being bought are the cars and trucks that produce the least amount of emissions.

U.S. driving more popular than ever? I’ll say it is! One has to wonder, though, as is the case with posted speeds, for the amount of driving being done, should there not also be limits?

– Alan Kandel