DOT: American driving reaches eighth month of steady decline

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New data released today, Aug. 13, by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that, since last November, Americans have driven 53.2 billion miles less than they did over the same period a year earlier – topping the 1970s’ total decline of 49.3 billion miles.

Americans drove 4.7 percent less, or 12.2 billion miles fewer, in June 2008 than June 2007. The decline is most evident in rural travel, which has fallen by 4 percent – compared to the 1.2 percent decline in urban miles traveled – since the trend began last November.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said that as Americans drive fewer miles, less revenue is generated for the Highway Trust Fund from gasoline and diesel sales – 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon, respectively. During the first quarter of 2008, motorists consumed nearly 400 million fewer gallons of gasoline, or about 1.3 percent less than during the same period in 2007, and 7 percent less – or 318 million gallons – of diesel.

“We can’t afford to continue pinning our transportation network’s future to the gas tax,” Peters said. “Advances in higher fuel-efficiency vehicles and alternative fuels are making the gas tax an even less sustainable support for funding roads, bridges and transit systems.” Last month, Peters unveiled the DOT’s transportation reform plan intended to offer lawmakers several options to consider when Congress takes up highway and transit legislation next year.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) collects vehicle-miles-traveled data for all motor vehicles through more than 4,000 automatic traffic recorders operated round-the-clock by state highway agencies. To review the FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” reports, including that of June 2008, click here.