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New Report Shows Floridians Are Driving Less
Floridians’ Driving Is Down 11.1% Percent, Ahead of National Trend
Tampa Bay- Floridians have cut their per-person driving miles by 11.1% since 2005, while the nation’s long term driving boom appears to have ended, according to a new report from the Florida PIRG Education Fund. This may not come as a surprise to those who live in the Tampa Bay area and have had to endure some of the longest commute times in the country due to traffic from highway expansion projects, but Florida’s per-person driving miles are declining faster than the national average of 6.87%.
“In Florida, driving miles are down, just as they are in almost every state – only more” said Dalyn Houser, Associate for the Florida PIRG Education Fund. “It’s time for policy makers to wake up and realize the driving boom is over. We need to reconsider expensive highway expansions and focus on alternatives such as public transit and biking—which people increasingly use to get around.”
The report, “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving,” [http://www.floridapirgedfund.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/FLP%20DrivingRpt%20Aug13.pdf] is based on the most current available government data. Among its findings:
· This decline in driving is a national trend. Forty-five other states have reduced per-person driving since the middle of the last decade.
· After World War II, the nation’s driving miles increased steadily almost every year, creating a “driving boom.” Driven by the growth of the suburbs, low gas prices, and increased auto ownership, the boom lasted 60 years. Now, in stark contrast, the average number of miles driven by Americans is in its eight consecutive year of decline, led by declines among Millennials.
· The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation.
· Floridians have cut their per-person driving miles by 11.1% since 2005, in stark contrast Alabama has seen a 3.26% increase in annual per-person vehicle miles traveled since 2005. Georgia, similarly to Florida, also known for its lack of public transportation, and highway construction projects has seen a 11.68% decline in per-person driving since 2005.
Tim Heberlein, the Political Director for the Florida Consumer Action Network states, "This report underscores why we need to do a better job at funding public transit in Florida. The economic recovery allows us to make these long term investments and define how we address our transportation needs over the next several years."
Bob Lasher, External Affairs Officer of Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority also affirms the need for alternative means of transportation in his statement, “Despite service cuts and fare increases, ridership is at all-time record levels and jumping more than 20%. Many of our buses are running with standing-room-only loads throughout much of the day. Years ago, only rush hour runs had crowds like that.”
Service cuts and fare increases to the bus system seem grossly in error when we consider the hundreds of millions spent on highway expansion projects in Tampa in just the past few years. Executive Director of Connect Tampa Bay, Kevin Thurman, a new education and advocacy organization devoted solely to developing alternative transportation in Tampa Bay speaks to the current state of transportation in the area, "The market has spoken: Floridians want more choices when it comes to transportation. Leaders across the state should take notice that Floridians are driving less and taking transit, walking, and biking more.”
Thurman further states, “Connect Tampa Bay has over 3,000 members and they want our region to meet this new demand or risk losing residents, businesses, and jobs to other states like Colorado, Maryland and Minnesota that are investing in new transportation options and jobs. New transportation options are about creating the freedom and the economic opportunity. A Floridian looking for a second job shouldn't need to find a second car for their family that costs as much to use as they will earn at that job.”
There have been many recent highway expansion projects in Florida that millions of dollars in federal funds have gone into. In 2012 FDOT began a $215 million construction project on 1-275, from SR-60 to the Hillsborough River, to widen the highway from 3 lanes to 4. This project is estimated to take 3 years to complete. With millions going into highway expansion while the bus system has faced cuts and 20% increased ridership rates simply does not make logical sense.
Phil Compton, Regional Representative for Sierra Club Florida's Healthy Air Campaign, says: "Some say mass transit plans won't work in Florida, as folks here love the freedom their cars provide too much. But stuck in some of America's worst traffic jams, more and more are turning to the limited transit options we have, despite our streets being the most dangerous in America for pedestrians and cyclists, and our metro transit systems funded at levels half that of other American cities. Plans like Greenlight Pinellas will give residents and tourists alike a real choice to catch a bus early, late and often to reach their destination as quickly as they could drive there, take light rail between major employment centers, or walk or bike on safer streets. Steadily increasing ridership of our currently extremely limited transit services, along with this report, indicates Floridians want such choices, and that when they're provided many will choose to leave the car in the garage and enjoy their ride to work as "me time" with their favorite tablet, newspaper or book."
“Given these trends, we need to press the reset button on our transportation policy,” said Houser. “Just because past transportation investments overwhelmingly went to highway construction, doesn’t mean that continues to be the right choice for Florida’s future.”
Download the report, “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis on the National Decline in Driving.” [http://www.floridapirgedfund.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/FLP%20DrivingRpt%20Aug13.pdf]
Download the infographic we created to illustrate the end of the Driving Boom. http://www.floridapirg.org/resources/flp/new-direction-driving-trends
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