Analysis of date from the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that Americans are driving less and using mass transit (and bicycles) more in 2013, compared to 2004 data; the peak of American driving, in miles per capita, peaked in 20014, according to reporting in USA Today (Larry Copeland, from the Daily Record, December 5). The average American’s miles driven has declined by 7.6% over the period. Meanwhile, use of public transit has increased in most metropolitan areas.
Is the shift permanent? Perhaps, but maybe not, given that automobile driving typically declines in recessions. Actually, total driving for the first 9 months of 2013 actually increased slightly—0.4%—over the corresponding period in 2012, but allowing for likely increase in population the per-capita driving probably declined nonetheless. Declines in driving seem to have occurred in diverse areas of the country. The largest decline in driving was in New Orleans, followed by cities such as Milwaukee; Madison, Wisconsin; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Poughkeepsie-Newburgh, N.Y. Other cities in the top 15 include Denver, Colorado; Jacksonville, Florida; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Interestingly, the group of 15 cities with the top reductions in driving come out better than average in a number of economic statistics, including changes in median income, changes in unemployment, and changes in the poverty rate.