The Cost of Driving Increasingly Out of Reach in the U.S.

New research stresses the importance of socioeconomic differences in U.S. transportation trends.

2 minute read

March 27, 2023, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Research published by the Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment reveals mobility trends in the United States that indicate a growing transportation gap to coincide with the nation’s growing wealth in equality.

The study, authored by Xize Wang from the National University of Singapore and John L. Renne from Florida Atlantic University, used data from the 2017 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) to compare urban travel trends to previous surveys.

“The most noticeable trend for the 2017 NHTS is that although private automobiles continue to be the dominant travel mode in American cities, the share of car trips has slightly and steadily decreased since its peak in 2001,” according to the abstract from the study. “In contrast, the share of transit, non-motorized, and taxicab (including ride-hailing) trips has steadily increased.” 

An article by Matthew Rozsa for Salon draws an angle unavailable in the study’s abstract from the conclusions of the study: “one's ability to access a car depends on many factors beyond a person's control,” writes Rozsa. “Foremost among them? Wealth.”

Renne is quoted in the article explaining that low-income residents of the United States are increasingly “cut off from job opportunities, schools, and other services” in locations without high quality transit service and safe walking and biking facilities.

“In addition to worsening income inequality, the American transportation gap has widened due to factors unique in the history of the early 21st century — in particular, the onset of the Great Recession in 2008 and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which exacerbated economic hardships,” writes Rozsa.

Sunday, March 19, 2023 in Salon

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