According to a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, the last few years have seen the first drop in miles driven annually by Americans since World War II, in large part thanks to a reduction in driving by young people:
From World War II until just a few years ago, the number of miles driven annually on America’s roads steadily increased. Then, at the turn of the century, something changed: Americans began driving less. By 2011, the average American was driving 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004.
The trend away from driving has been led by young people. From 2001 to 2009, the average annual number of vehicle miles traveled by young people (16 to 34-year-olds) decreased from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita — a drop of 23 percent.
“America’s transportation preferences appear to be changing. Our elected officials need to make transportation decisions based on the real needs of Americans in the 21st century,” said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Transportation Analyst for U.S.PIRG Education Fund. However, it’s quite clear that House Republicans in Congress aren’t quite caught up to speed.
The House GOP has been squabbling for months over a bill to reauthorize the nation’s transportation funding, with more conservative members of the caucus wanting to gut funding and send it back to the states to deal with. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), in the transportation bill that he proposed, called for ending the government’s dedicated stream of funding for mass transit, and instead implementing a cockamamie scheme that the Congressional Budget Office said would cover just five percent of mass transit needs.
The New York Times called the GOP’s plan “uniquely terrible,” and as the research organization PolicyLink found, it would have a disproportionately negative impact on minorities, who depend upon mass transit in greater numbers. The Senate, meanwhile, has had none of these problems, passing a bipartisan transportation bill that the House GOP refuses to take up.