In January, according to statistics compiled by the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove a collective 222 billion miles. That’s a lot of time spent behind the wheel — enough to make roughly eight hundred round-trips to Mars. It translates to about 727 miles traveled for every man, woman, and child in the country. But that figure was down about 4 percent from January 2008, when Americans averaged 757 miles of car travel per person. And this was no aberration: January 2009 was the fifteenth consecutive month in which the average American drove less than he had a year earlier.
It’s a good piece and there’s a good discussion at Nate Silver’s website Five Thirty Eight. This decline is caused in part by the rise of the cost of driving (and falling real incomes), and in part by increased urbanization and better access to transit. It’s a bit depressing to think that transit agencies could cut service just when America’s car and oil dependencies are starting to ebb.
I think it’s worth considering the 28% percent fewer (according to WSDOT) car trips that would be taken with a surface option to replace to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Would those vehicle miles traveled just disappear anyway? Looks like it, probably don’t need the highway then.