Driving Drops Again
Driving dropped again in May, according to nationwide figures released today by the Federal Highway Administration. In fact, it was the steepest decline in vehicle miles traveled for any May in the 66 years those numbers have been kept.
People drove 9.6 billion fewer miles than in May 2007. Not only was it the biggest decline ever recorded for the month of May, it also was the third largest monthly drop.
During the first five months of 2008, people drove 29.8 billion fewer miles than during the same period of 2007. Three of the largest single-month declines have occurred since December.
What are the consequences?
-- Often this spring and summer, we've noted the sharp increases in Metrorail ridership. Metro board reflected last week on the number of dates that had entered Metrorail's list of top 10 ridership days. The transit authority might need a new way of presenting such landmarks if they were going to happen so frequently. But perhaps there would be a lull during August?
Metro isn't anticipating such a lull, General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. told the board.
-- Some people are stuck driving, but looking for ways to save. Our site had a discussion last week about "Gas Saving Tips for the Savvy Consumer."
-- Others are trying to telecommute, at least a day or so a week. (See Post story by Matt Zapotosky.)
-- There's more interest in bicycle commuting. (See our Health Section story on bike safety.)
-- Gas tax revenues are declining. That consequence was emphasized by the U.S. Department of Transportation when it released the driving numbers today. "Less driving means less money for the Highway Trust Fund," Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray said in the announcement.
Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters cited this as further evidence that the gas tax has a limited future in supporting our transportation system.
"By driving less and using more fuel-efficient vehicles, Americans are showing us that the highways of tomorrow cannot be supported solely by the federal gas tax," Peters said in the announcement. She favors tolling, tolling based on the degree of congestion and public-private partnerships, among other solutions.
The Virginia HOT lanes project is one of the efforts supported by the federal administration.
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