Friday, May 31, 2013

Oil: Straight Talk on The Recent Declines in Miles Driven

From New Geography:
There are grains of reality, misreporting and exaggeration in the press treatment of a report on driving trends by USPIRG. The report generated the usual press reports suggesting that the millennial generation (ages 16 to 35) is driving less, moving to urban cores, and that with a decline in driving per capita, people are switching to transit. These included the usual, but not representative anecdotes about people whose lifestyles and mobility needs are sufficiently served by the severe geographical and travel time limitations of transit.
Further, in an important contribution, the USPIRG report provides driving trend forecasts that are lower than other projections. If accurate, these would result in materially greater greenhouse gas emissions reductions to 2040 than projected by the Department of Energy, further undermining the justification for anti-mobility policies as well as urban containment.

Millennials and More Urban and Walkable Living
It is again reported that millennials "like to live in the city center." Last year, a report by USPIRG cited a poll indicating that 77 percent of millennials plan to live in urban cores. Their actual choices have been radically different.

In fact, 2010 census data indicates that people between 20 and 29 years old were less inclined to live in more urban and walkable neighborhoods than their predecessors. In 2000, 19 percent of people aged 20 to 29 lived in the core municipalities of major metropolitan areas, where transit service and walkable neighborhoods are concentrated. Only 13 percent of the increase in 20 to 29-year-old population between 2000 and 2010 was in the core municipalities. By contrast, the share of the age 20 to 29 living  in the suburbs of major metropolitan areas was 45 percent, higher than the 36 percent living there in 2000 (Figure 1).
The Decline in Driving
Driving per capita in urban areas peaked in 2005. Between 2005 and 2011, driving declined seven percent. In the context of rising gasoline prices, and economic trends, the real news is not how much driving has fallen, but rather how little. A seven percent reduction is slight compared to the one and one-half times increase in gas prices over the past decade (Figure 2). Per capita travel by car and light truck has fallen back only to 2002 levels, which remained above the driving rates of previous years.
Drivers: Not Switching to Transit
The USPIRG report gives the impression that instead of driving, Americans are switching to other modes of transport, principally transit. In discussing the report, Nick Turner, of the Rockefeller Foundation said: "Americans are making very different transportation choices than they did in years past."...MORE