U.S. Motor Vehicle Travel Increased in June
August 26, 2009
After more than a year of driving declines, U.S. motor vehicle travel in June increased to 256.7 billion miles, which is 2% above the total miles driven in June 2008. The June driving statistics were recently released by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). While traffic volumes have shown some year-over-year gains earlier this year, June marks the first month when driving was higher in all regions of the United States and on all types of roads. U.S. traffic volumes started sliding in November 2007 as oil prices rose and experienced dramatic drops in 2008, as first record-high oil prices and then the economic slump inspired U.S. residents to leave their cars parked. The June increase in driving may or may not be an indicator of economic recovery, but it definitely suggests that fuel consumption and the attendant air emissions may be on the rise again. On the other hand, June 2009 driving volumes are still lower than the levels they reached before 2008: you have to go back to 2003 to find lower driving volumes. And with the slow start to the year, the miles driven for the first half of the year are also the lowest that they've been since 2003. See the overall traffic volume trends for June 2009, the comparison to previous years, and the detailed breakdown by road type.
Although driving seems to be on the increase, ridership on public transportation has seen only modest declines this year, although the transit data lags behind the vehicle miles data. The first-quarter report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), released in mid-June, found only a 1.2% year-over-year drop in ridership. The decrease was slight in spite of the fact that many transit systems have had to either raise their fares or reduce their services. Light rail systems performed the best, with a 1.8% gain in ridership, while ridership on heavy rail systems dropped 1.8%, commuter rail systems dropped 3%, and large bus systems experienced a 1.2% drop in ridership. See the APTA press release.