The Feds Aren’t Crowing About the Record Amount of Driving in America

Driving miles are again on the rise after a historically unprecedented dip. Graph: Doug Short
Driving mileage is on the rise again after a historically unprecedented dip. Graph: Doug Short

Gas is cheap again, and cumulatively, Americans are driving a record amount.

Newly released U.S. DOT data shows that through the end of November, Americans drove a cumulative 2.88 trillion miles last year, well above the same period in 2014, indicating that 2015 will set a new national record for driving mileage. Adjusting for population growth, driving is still about 6 percent lower than the peak in 2005, though that metric is also on the rise, reports analyst Doug Short.

On the bright side, at least this time the feds aren’t cheering the news, like they did back in August. Todd Solomon at U.S. DOT’s blog, The Fast Lane, wrote about the drawbacks of more traffic:

Each of those miles is wear and tear on the roadway surface. And when combined, those miles represent a significant challenge to our capacity. And that means traffic congestion. Which means lost time, lost money, and increased greenhouse gas emissions. So, while we appreciate that our roads made possible those 3+ trillion vehicle miles traveled, we aren’t exactly celebrating this new record.

Even if the average American isn’t driving as much today as 10 years ago, too many cities and towns are saddled with infrastructure that leaves people with no good alternative to driving for almost every trip. Without significant changes to transportation and land use policy, traffic isn’t going to decline on its own.

Hat tip: Tony Dutzik

  • Half Full

    Interesting side note. According to the department of energy (EIA) U.S. Gasoline sales are 2% lower in 2015 than 2007..so we are driving more miles but apparently with more efficient vehicles. This is a double edged sword for the USDOT and State DOTs who rely on gas revenue to fund projects to deal with the increased wear and tear and expand existing infrastructure (both highway and transit).

  • Alexander Vucelic

    the Mileage stat Is a estimate

    the gas stat Is hard data

    cost of Gaslampe Drops by 50% and VMT grows 5% – Illuminating Per capita VMT Peaked in 2005.

  • Scott

    Is there a similar graph with miles driven per capita?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    on Link

    waaaay down Since 2005

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