After years of driving much less than historic trends, Americans’ average number of vehicle miles travelled (VMT) per capita are down to levels last seen in 1995. A new report from the US PIRG Education Fund shows that this is not a one-time blip. Rising vehicle operating costs, new technology, aging baby boomers and a younger generation driving much less are all propelling a long term shift. The report’s three scenario projections from business as usual to a more radical shift show sharp declines from the prevailing assumption that VMT will continue increasing as it had for decades.
What does this mean for the future of our transportation programs? A lot less money, for one thing, unless we change our dependence on the gas tax; these revenues are collapsing as vehicle efficiency increases and people drive less. With tightening revenues, we must make sure we are setting aside funds to fix our existing system. We must also continue to invest in the metropolitan regions and mid-sized cities that are trying to give their citizens more reliable and affordable options. This suggests that we must shift towards mixing revenue sources to build a unified transportation fund that can cover all our infrastructure needs.
Read more about the new report and what these trends meann the Transportation for America blog.