AUSTIN -- A new study suggests Texans are driving less these days.
According to the TexPIRG Education Fund, drivers in Texas have cut their driving miles by 10 percent since 2005.
“It may come to as a surprise to many, but Texans are driving fewer and fewer miles on average, each year,” said Program Director for the TexPIRG Education Fund Sara Smith. “It’s time for policy makers to wake up and realize the driving boom is over. The same old policies and investments are not going to work for the changing needs and expectations of the average Texan. We need to reconsider expensive highway expansions and focus on alternatives such as public transit, biking, or ride sharing —which people increasingly use to get around.”
A few findings from the report include:
- In Texas, people have reduced their driving miles by 12.9 percent per person since 2000, the peak year for vehicle miles traveled per person.
- This decline in driving is a national trend. Forty-five other states have reduced per-person driving since the middle of the last decade.
- After World War II, the nation’s driving miles increased steadily almost every year, creating a “driving boom.” Driven by the growth of the suburbs, low gas prices, and increased auto ownership, the boom lasted 60 years. Now, in stark contrast, the average number of miles driven by Americans is in its eight consecutive year of decline, led by declines among Millennials.
- The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation.
- Texas has the lowest number of vehicle miles traveled per capita of any South Gulf state.
In Austin, city leaders have began to develop transit solutions.
"Project Connect is an important high capacity, public transportation system and significant community initiative that area leaders have been working on for about two years to bring to fruition. As our city and region grows, all forms of transportation like roads, bike and pedestrian paths, and rail will continue to be important, so it’s important to think about alternate forms of transportation which will be available for all residents, including those who cannot or choose not to drive," Mayor Lee Leffingwell said.
Capital Metro President and CEO Linda S. Watson says public transit has seen an increase of use in Austin.
“Capital Metro’s ridership continues to grow, with MetroRail at full capacity during peak hour service. This shows us that more people than ever are choosing to take a bus or train rather than drive,” Watson said. “Overall, ridership is up 3.4 percent compared to 2012, including a 19 percent increase in MetroRail usage, which has tripled since service began in 2010 and is now seeing over 15,000 boardings a week. With the upcoming launch in early 2014 of our premium MetroRapid service, we’re projecting that ridership will continue to rise even higher as more people look for alternative ways to get around without driving.”
See the full report here.
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