The Road Less Traveled

Brookings Institution….  “An analysis at the national, state, and metropolitan levels of changing driving patterns, measured by Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) primarily between 1991 and 2008, reveals that… driving, as measured by national VMT, began to plateau as far back as 2004 and dropped in 2007 for the first time since 1980. Per capita driving followed a similar pattern, with flat-lining growth after 2000 and falling rates since 2005. These recent declines in driving predated the steady hikes in gas prices during 2007 and 2008. Moreover, the recent drops in VMT (90 billion miles) and VMT per capita (388 miles) are the largest annualized drops since World War II.”

The authors make a case that VMT will continue to track downward, regardless, as will gas tax revenues.  New road projects are a waste of resources because we aren’t going to need them.  Only thing we can do now is selective maintenance of existing transportation infrastructure, and provide increased mass transit opportunities.  May have to raise the gas tax in order for these things to happen.

Brief Summary

Full report [pdf]


In related news:
NYT Editorial: The Gas Tax

CNN: US Driving on the Decline

Obama: Transportation can get economy moving

Traffic fatalities decrease 10% this year

9 Replies to “The Road Less Traveled”

  1. Interesting read

    The wife is about to start a new position for the company she works for. This new job is less then 5 minuets driving time from where we live. We are talking about 25 minuets of driving time eliminated.

    Sure those miles are done in our corolla but the over all savings is going to be huge. We are even debating whether or not I will let her ride a bike to work. Since she will be riding mostly at 6 am or 830 pm will leave it at its still up for debate.

  2. Gross misallocation of dwindling resources is a real danger at this point. Oil and gas, concrete, steel, tax revenues, investment capital, land, freshwater, natural productivity, it’s a long list.

    VMTs and land use patterns/decisions go hand-in-hand. A heck of as lot of people are heavily invested in the continuation of new construction, sprawl and roads. Maintenance just isn’t where its at for making the big bucks.

    Rather than stepping up and creating a new paradigm through building public consensus and policy changes (should have happened 30 years ago), we as a group may only be capable of succumbing through sheer exhaustion. Good to the last drop. Misallocate ourselves to death, literally.

  3. le roachbonhommie,

    With a lot of lights on her bike, my husband would argue she is safer than in the day time. My husband uses really bright lights on both the bike and his helmet. He is a freak out there and cars slow down because they are not sure what he is! She needs to follow the rules of the road and act like a car herself. Then she will be predictable and safe. Also check your insurance. When we stopped driving the car to work, our insurance went down. Also, I wonder if she could walk some days. Another one, walk to work, catch a ride home with a co worker who rides that direction any way.

    Congrats on closing your gap!

    PS. Just talked to my husband who is a licensed cycling instructor. If you are talking 2 to 3 miles, with parking and all, it might be faster to bike. There is also a commuter tax credit that employers who support cyclists can get. It is intended for them to add racks, locker rooms etc. Might want to consider investing in a good range of wardrobe choices to be comfy all year round.

  4. “Rather than stepping up and creating a new paradigm through building public consensus and policy changes (should have happened 30 years ago)….”


    Yah… another one of my guides–Hazel Henderson–said it nearly thirty years ago in her collection of essays “The Politics of the Solar Age: Alternatives to Economics.” It’s kind of shocking how prescient she was and how much time we have lost.

    “…we as a group may only be capable of succumbing through sheer exhaustion. Good to the last drop. Misallocate ourselves to death, literally.”

    It is certainly going to be a huge education process, and it is going to need to be a bottom-up not top-down deal. As some folks say, we’re going to have to walk the talk this time.

  5. Nice to finally have the power back on.

    Well, EE, agree and suggest we need some wise leadership expousing reason like JHK to allocate our remaining resources wisely. This of course means not listening or caving to special interest groups and their lobbiests, but instead setting upon a reasoned, independent pathway. Like FDR’s many experiments, it may lead us in various directions, the trick is to recognise the turkeys and drop them for a better route. How about:

    GM, Chysler, Ford to make hybrids, PHEVs, EVs and trail, trolley cars. No moron SUVs and BFTs.

    Fix existing roads, bridges in need of repair. Make no new roads or airports by simply not allowing funds for them.

    Beef up ports and internal seaways.

    Fix and enhance inner cities, make them attractive to suburbanites.

    Fortify and move back (retreat from) coastal areas that will flood in future.

    Electrify rail, enhance Amtrak.

    Boost American cruise lines as new international travel means.

    Promote nuclear anything that isn’t just moron bombs.

    Promote basic science & engineering (:^)

  6. “Electrify rail, enhance Amtrak”

    It’s gonna take a shitload of money and ideas to enhance Amtrak. I just returned from a little jaunt on the Southwest Chief. Jeebus.

    I had a roomette. The ride was so rough at times I literally caught air off the mattress. I accidentally left my cell phone between the window sill and the metal rack that holds the fold away table. The rough ride cracked the screen in multiple places. I pulled out my ticket stub more than once to look for the “E”.

    Ice removal at many of the stations was minimal to almost non-existent. My return trip started 3 hours behind schedule in LA. There were more than a few obvious end-of-service-life signs on the various cars – non-functioning PA, broken toilets, worn out Velcro on privacy curtains – not seedy, but getting there.

    That said, in every case, on-board staff were courteous, professional and helpful with short-staffing obvious. Some were downright entertaining.

    At least one station master was long overdue for a bitch-slap. I think he genuinely resented having to get up at 0-dark:thirty to open the station and deal with customers.


    Phoenix opens light rail system. Good luck with that. And Phoenix is still building – offices and strip malls, homes, more lanes on the freeways without so much as a blink – but none of it near the light rail lines of course. But the big wigs will get on TV and collect their atta-boys, cut some ribbons and take a little press junket on the new bright and shiny token.

    Poster city for the CF. Hey a ZK calendar idea. Twelve CF poster cities.

    Highway to Hell, full throttle.

  7. UR, since you brought it up, I’d like to post a few edits to the above list:

    GM, Chysler, Ford to make hybrids, PHEVs, EVs and “rail”, trolley cars.

    Beef up ports and internal “waterways”.

    What you describe points out there’s plenty of work to do to get Amtrak up to Bulgarian rail standards. It’s not just the cars, it’s the rail roadbeds, depots, etc.

    A lot of our current problems with suburban sprawl and the neglect of the municipal systems in this fine country has its roots in the big oil-auto-tire unholy alliance of Rockefeller-Ford-Firestone. It worked for many decades, almost a century, but its time is rapidly coming to a close. It will take a federal, states, and counties mandate to turn it all around soon. Fortunately, since the free-market capitalists are all running for government handouts, the timing it right to make some top-down decisions on how these corporations will conduct their business in future.

    I liked your brief commentary and support the idea of a ZK city calendar.

  8. Oh and Doom, glad to hear you have your power turned back on. Did the Obamas’ blow a substation with their upgraded Christmas light display and Presidential-like First Christmas Tree?

    Nasty wind after a record snowfall had the power out at my hotel for about 5 hours early one morning. I was more than a little surprised at discovering the place (and apparently the nearby businesses) had no backup genset.

    I stepped into the hall at about 2AM – the dead silence, no one about and the glare of the emergency wall pack lights reminded me of Stephen King. And a handful of other cliché mental images.

    Interesting that after about 20 minutes (or so it seemed) what appeared to be a convoy of four-wheel drives of various types came down the frontage road and split off into the various parking lots of the businesses around the hotel. As the smaller number of vehicles drove around the hotel and nearby buildings I was able to see that some had markings. Not the utility company trucks I half expected but rather police, sheriff and rent-a-cop cars with flood lights sweeping over the doors and windows of the restaurant and gas station/quick mart and in our case, the parking lot. A couple of the trucks at an adjacent restaurant were unmarked and based on the flashlight activity, upper level management looking to not lose frozen and refrigerated food.

    Personal flashlight – check
    Cell phone signal – check
    Confirm card key unlocks door with power out – check
    Ms. Remus sleeping unaware through it all – check

    Nothing to see here, go back to bed. Yawn.

  9. Remus, the official story is it was lightening, but they don’t really know what happened yet. It could have been high winds in the mountains where Hawaiian Electric wisely decided to place many of their high-voltage power lines.

    We got to break out some of the camping equipment, and had a flashlight-assisted outdoor BBQ. A combo of flashlights, candles and lantern. We had breakfast courtesy of a new Coleman Duel-Fuel 2-burner camp stove. Worked great. We also carry an emergency short-wave and AM-FM radio that can be run by hand cranking to charge a rechargeable Ni-metal hydride battery, or just use disposable alkalines.

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