The US Dept. of Transportation put out a press release on the recent decline in vehicle miles traveled on US Highways that should make us all consider how we in Charlottesville should be investing our limited transportation dollars. I might question the Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters, notion that we now need to finde new revenue sources for highways, but I would agree that we need to invest more in transit programs nationwide - and even moreso in Charlottesville area. Even at 14 miles per gallon, a reduction of 1.4 billion highway miles results in saving 100 million gallons of highway fuel saved compared in April 2008 compared to April 2007.
In Charlottesville, the millions of dollars available for transportation might be much better spent in expanding transit options compared to building projects such as the Meadow Creek Parkway, the McIntire Road Extended, or the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road. With reducing highway traffic demand, and rising transit usage, now is not too soon to refocus our investment strategy toward public transportation, and enhancing pedestrian and bicycle options.
Below is the press release from the US DOT. If a six-month decline is not a trend, then I am not sure what is. Join me in challenging our city and county decision makers to look at how much reprogramming can be achieved in the very near future. Virginia is not making sufficient funding available to build our way out of our transportation challenges through highway construction alone. I believe investments in transit and other not highway construction solutions is where we need to be moving.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Contact: Doug Hecox
Tel.: (202) 366-0660
Americans Drove 1.4 Billion Fewer Highway Miles in April of 2008 than in April 2007 While Fuel Prices and Transit Ridership Are Both on the Rise
Sixth Month of Declining Vehicle Miles Traveled Signals Need to Find New Revenue Sources for Highway and Transit Programs, Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters Says
WASHINGTON – At a time of record-high gas prices and a corresponding surge in transit ridership, Americans are driving less for the sixth month in a row, highlighting the need to find a more sustainable and effective way to fund highway construction and maintenance, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters.
The Secretary said that Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April 2008 than at the same time a year earlier and 400 million miles less than in March of this year. She added that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on all public roads for April 2008 fell 1.8 percent as compared with April 2007 travel. This marks a decline of nearly 20 billion miles traveled this year, and nearly 30 billion miles traveled since November.
“We’re burning less fuel as energy costs change driving patterns, steer people toward more fuel efficient vehicles and encourage more to use transit. Which is exactly why we need a more effective funding source than the gas tax,” Secretary Peters said.
The Secretary said as Americans drive less, the federal Highway Trust Fund receives less revenue from gasoline and diesel sales – 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon, respectively.
The Secretary noted that data show midsize SUV sales were down last month 38 percent over May of last year; car sales, which had accounted for less than half of the industry volume in 2007, rose to 57 percent in May. She said past trends have shown Americans will continue to drive despite high gas prices, but will drive more fuel efficient vehicles consuming less fuel. “History shows that we’re going to continue to see congested roads while gas tax revenues decline even further,” she said.
“As positive as any move toward greater fuel efficiency is, we need to make sure we have the kind of sustainable funding measures in place to support needed highway and transit improvements well into the future,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray.
To review the FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” reports, including that of April 2008, visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/tvtw/tvtpage.htm.