Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Significant decreases in automobile traffic reported by FHWA

A recent U.S. Department of Transportation press release indicates that the number of vehicle-miles traveled is decreasing at record pace while transit ridership is increasing at near record pace.

Here are the data presented in the press release dated Oct. 24, 2008:

"In August 2008, Americans drove 15 billion fewer miles, or 5.6 percent less, than they did in August 2007 – the largest ever year-to-year decline recorded in a single month, Secretary Peters said. She added that over the past 10 months, Americans have driven 78 billion fewer miles than they did in the same 10 months the previous year. Texans alone drove 1.3 million fewer miles, the Secretary added.

"Transit ridership, meanwhile, saw an increase of 6.2 percent this summer compared to last, said Secretary Peters. In Texas, the DART rail system saw an increase of 15 percent this summer, one of the largest in its 12-year history, she noted. "

The August 2008 Traffic Volume Trends report from the Federal Highway Administration includes data by month in 2008 indicating a continuous decrease in vehicle miles traveled in tabular and graphical form. It is interesting to note that vehicle miles traveled have decreased 5.6 percent nationwide but that in the Southeastern states the decrease was 7.4 percent.

Clearly, it is time to consider where our transportation dollars will best be spent. Spending the many millions of dollars programmed for highway projects in light of rapidly decreasing vehicle use doesn't seem to be the best investment right now. Instead of spending most of our transportation dollars in the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County on projects like the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road, the McIntire Road Extended, the Meadow Creek Parkway and other road projects, reprogramming much of that money to transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects seems like a better choice. Our region's transportation goal for many years has been to reduce reliance on automobiles in our urbanized area. Now that this is the trend we as a region need to provide that alternative infrastructure to provide needed mobility by means other than automobiles.

Encourage your transportation planners to meet our future transportation needs by other than more and bigger roads. People are shifting to transit and with better transit options I am sure this trend will continue.

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