April FHWA Report Shows Americans Continue to Drive More

There is good news in the most recent Federal Highway Administration Travel Trends report—if you look hard enough.

June 25, 2017, 1:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Los Angeles Traffic - The Newhall Pass

Jeff Turner (JefferyTurner) / Flickr

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has been on the rise since 2013, and accelerated after gas prices began falling in July 2014, with 2015 breaking the so-called "peak car" record set in 2007. [See Planetizen blog post, "So Much for Peak VMT," by Steve PolzinMarch 8, 2016]

VMT "increased 1.5 percent in year-over-year comparisons or by an additional 15.2 billion miles driven in the first four months of 2017," notes the AASHTO Journal report on the FHWA data which covers preliminary traffic information from January through April of this year.

However, the rate of increase slowed in comparison to the 2.8 percent mileage increase in all of 2016 compared to 2015. Furthermore, the increase in April alone dropped to 1.2 percent compared to mileage from April 2016—that's a 57 percent reduction from the 2016 annual increase.

An increase in driving, resulting from low oil prices and a robust economy, was one factor that caused California, despite its wide array of climate change programs, to see its greenhouse gas emissions to drop by a mere 0.3 percent in 2015 notwithstanding significant reductions achieved in electricity generation due to increased use of renewable energy.

And oil prices continue to remain low, reports Steven Mufson for The Washington Post.

[G]asoline prices are hitting lows at the start of the summer driving season, a time when increased demand typically bumps up the cost of gas. This year, however, for the week that ended June 19, the nationwide average price of regular gasoline was $2.32 a gallon, about the same as June 2000 when adjusted for inflation

According to the California Air Resources Board's 2015 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory released earlier this month (and posted here), greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, the state’s largest source of greenhouse gases with 39 percent of statewide emissions, increased 3 percent in 2015 due to increased fuel consumption."

California and the West saw the greatest regional increase in driving, 2.4 percent, in the April FHWA report (compared to April 2016), while the Northeast experienced the least at 0.3 percent.

Hat tip to L.A. Transportation Headlines.

Friday, June 23, 2017 in AASHTO Journal

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