CT Residents Are Driving Less, Reflecting National Trend

Connecticut residents have cut their per-person driving miles by 3.45 percent since 2005, while the nation’s long term driving boom appears to have ended, according to a report by the ConnPIRG Education Fund. The decline in driving is a national trend, with 46 states including Connecticut having reduced per-person driving since the middle of the last decade.

The 31-page report, “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving,” is based on the most current available government data. The average number of miles driven by Americans is in its eight consecutive year of decline, led Moving Off the Road Thumbnailby declines among Millennials. Connecticut has had the slowest decline in driving in New England, but has the second lowest vehicle miles traveled per person in region, behind Rhode Island. The national trend in driving peaked in 2005.

“It’s time for policy makers to recognize that the driving boom is over. We need to reconsider expensive highway expansions and focus on alternatives such as public transportation and biking—which people increasingly use to get around,” said Abe Scarr, Director of the ConnPIRG Education Fund.

“The Millennial generation is leading the decrease in driving and will be using and paying for our transportation system for years to come.  It is critical that Connecticut plans a system that reflects how people are getting around and want to get around,” said Scarr.  The report noted that “the evidence suggests that the nation’s per-capita decline in driving cannot be dismissed as a temporary side effect of the recession.”

Earlier this year, Governor Malloy and Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker launched a multi-year strategic planning process, Transform CT, which aims to “improve economic growth and competitiveness, build sustainability, and provide a blueprint for a world-class transportation system.”  TransformCT_published_Cycle_Small

Transform CT has established an interactive website to gather public input which has collected nearly 300 comments, suggestions or ideas to date, and will be updated with topics and polls regularly as the strategic plan is developed over 18-20 months. In addition, a series of events will be held throughout the fall to engage the public on the future of transportation in Connecticut.

 “Connecticut’s investment in critical transit projects like CTfastrak and the New Haven-Springfield commuter rail line show that transportation decisions better reflect changing travel preferences of residents,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit policy organization.

The Tri-State Transportation Camcars on hwaypaign, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to reducing car dependency in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, celebrates its 20th anniversary with a fundraising benefit in New York City on November 7.  The Campaign was formed in the early nineties as a response to the mounting economic and environmental costs of automobile and truck dependence and promising reforms in federal transportation policy. Among the organization’s board members is Norman Garrick, Director of the Center for Transportation and Urban Planning at the University of Connecticut.

North Dakota, Nevada, Louisiana and Alabama are the only states in the nation where driving miles per capita in 2011 were above their 2004 or 2005 peaks, the ConnPIRG report found.  Meanwhile, since 2005, double-digit percent reductions occurred in a diverse group of states: Alaska, Delaware, Oregon, Georgia, Wyoming, South Carolina, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Florida.

The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn, according to the ConnPIRG report. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation, according to the report.