Kaid Benfield Archive


US driving rate down over 4 percent in September compared to last year

Kaid Benfield

Posted November 24, 2008 at 9:58PM

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So reports the Federal Highway Administration, even though gasoline prices were falling at the time.  Especially significant is that the decline is in overall cumulative miles driven, not just miles driven per capita or per household.

less of this in our future? (by: roadsidepictures, creative commons license)This is important:  while the economy is part of the story here, I do not believe we will be going back to the VMT (vehicle miles traveled) growth rates of the 1970s-1990s.  It will take some time to consolidate the paradigm shift, but sprawl as we have known it is close to dead. 

The policy challenge will be to respond to this new reality and the new priorities that emerge from resurgence in consumer preference for well-located, walkable communities.  How do we keep them affordable?  Will our transportation infrastructure and investments accommodate the new preferences?  How do we make them truly sustainable?  Can they be green on the ground as well as in their improved transportation performance?  Can we make our smarter development attractive and livable enough that neighbors will see it as an asset rather than a threat? 

I continue to believe that it is really important that smart growth advocates look beyond the transportation box that has shaped so much of our advocacy for the last decade-plus.  By itself, it's too limiting, and leads us to fail to respond to 21st-century challenges.  Our advocacy can and should continue to include VMT reduction, but it can no longer stop there.

Thanks to my NRDC colleague Justin Horner for sharing the new numbers.