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A New Direction Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future. 26 July 2013. WISPIRG Foundation.
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A New DirectionOur Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future 26 July 2013
WISPIRG Foundation • With public debate around important issues often dominated by powerful special interests pursuing their own narrow agenda, the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) Foundation offers an independent, articulate voice on behalf of the public interest. • Non-profit and non-partisan • Public interest advocate on a variety of issues such as health care, financial reform, public health and transportation. • Published numerous reports on transportation and infrastructure finance
Structure of the Presentation: • Rise and Fall of the Driving Boom • Why it matters and what might the future look like? • Policy recommendations • Q&A
Rise and Fall of the Driving Boom • The Driving Boom 1946-2004 • What powered the Driving Boom • Evidence of the end of the Driving Boom • Millennials leading the trend
Total vehicle miles followedPeaking in 2007 Source: Federal Highway Administration 12-month moving average to Feb 2013
Youth driving declined even more sharply • Vehicle-miles traveled declined 23% among 16 to 34 year olds from 2001 to 2009 (2009 NHTS)
Youth with driver’s licenses declining The share of 16 to 24 year-olds with a driver’s license is now the lowest since at least 1963.
Wisconsin is no different • Wisconsinites – like Americans in general – are driving less. • The average Wisconsinite now drives about as much in a year as he or she did in 1997 - the middle of President Bill Clinton’s administration. • Total vehicle travel has fallen by 3 percent since 2004.
Next section: • Why do future driving trends matter? • Why are the Millennials especially important? • What might the future look like?
Why future driving trends matter • Transportation projects take years to decades to go from concept to reality and have useful life of several decades. • Transportation funding is indirectly tied to the number of miles people drive through the gasoline tax. • Transportation decisions have been guided by the assumption that the number of miles driven will go in one direction: up. • That’s not happening anymore. Will the change in driving patterns persist? And how must transportation policy change if it does?
Saturation • The Driving Boom era saw steady increases in labor force participation, vehicle ownership, and driver’s licensure. • Those trends have peaked and, in some cases, reversed.
Demographics • The share of population of peak driving age (35-54) increased from 21% to 29% from 1980 to 2000. • Has begun to decline and will fall to 25% by 2020. U.S. Census Bureau
Economics • Driving Boom coincided with sustained period of (mostly) low gas prices – now ended. • Relationship between VMT and GDP growth not as robust as before. Economic growth<>VMT growth. FHWA; Bureau of Economic Analysis; U.S. Census Bureau U.S. Energy Information Administration
Adding it up • Major headwinds in the way of further growth of per-capita VMT. • The Driving Boom is over.
What happens next? The impact of the Millennials. • The largest generation in the United States. • Heading into peak driving years by the end of decade. Luis Alvarez, istockphoto.com
Will it last? • Millennials will almost certainly drive more per-person than they do now as they move into more driving-intensive phases of life and as the economy improves. • The important question is: Will they drive more than their parents? 2009 National Household Travel Survey
Reasons to believe Millennials will drive less previous generations. • They are twice as likely as Boomers or Gen X’ers to want to live in an urban area. (RCLCO) • They use non-driving modes more than previous generations. • They are less willing to make sacrifices to sustain a driving lifestyle. (Cars less important than technology.) • They are the first mobile technology generation. (25% of Millennials report having used mobile apps to reduce driving vs. 9% of those 55 and up) • (Zipcar/KRC Research) “In your daily routine, losing which piece of technology would have the greatest negative impact on you?” Zipcar/KRC Research survey, December 2012.
What might the future look like? Developed three simple scenarios based on per-capita driving by age group from 2009 National Household Travel Survey and 2012 population projections from U.S. Census Bureau. • Back to the Future: The recent dip in driving is a temporary blip and people of a given age will go back to driving as much as they did in 2004. • Enduring Shift: Recent changes in driving behavior are lasting and will continue as Millennials and others age. • Ongoing Decline: Recent changes in driving behavior are just the beginning of larger changes and a similar change in driving for each age group will take place between 2009 and 2025 as occurred from 2001 to 2009.
Three visions • All three scenarios lead to far less driving than the continuation of Driving Boom-era trends.
Three visions • All three scenarios lead to significantly lower VMT than projected in recent official forecasts.
That means … • Less oil consumption and pollution. • Less traffic congestion, less wear and tear on roads, less need for highway expansion.
Road Overkill: Wisconsin Spends Big on Questionable Highways, Even as Driving Declines • The recent, historically unprecedented decline in vehicle travel – coupled with lower-than-anticipated traffic on recently completed roads – calls into question whether massive new investments in highway expansion are justified. • Usage of seven recently completed highways has not developed as projected
…And the gas tax Dramatically lower revenue from the gas tax (assuming improved fuel economy and declining purchasing power due to inflation).
A few words of caution … It is too soon to tell which of these futures is most likely to occur. Possible futures may exist that are not presented here. There are still many important things we don’t know about how driving trends are changing … much less how they will change in the future.
Conclusions • It is no longer safe to assume that driving will increase as it did during the Driving Boom years. • In fact, there is strong reason to believe that is has peaked for the foreseeable future. • Americans will drive fewer miles than was predicted just a few years ago … and may drive far fewer miles if current trends toward reduced driving continue. • Transportation decisions are still guided by Driving Boom-era assumptions. Policy priorities no longer reflect reality.
Policy Recommendations • Plan (and invest) for uncertainty • Support the desire of Millennials and other Americans to drive less • Revisit plans for new or expanded highways • Refocus the federal role • Use transportation revenue where it is most needed • Do our homework
Do our homework National and local transportation planners have continually overestimated traffic demand. • Obsolete models • Inadequate data • More regular government travel surveys • More attention to VMT trends and scenarios
Thank you. Bruce Speight WISPIRG and WISPIRG Foundation firstname.lastname@example.org www.wispirg.org www.wispirgfoundation.org
1. Plan (and invest) for uncertainty • Driving Boom is over. Stop assuming its return lies around the corner. • We don’t know what will replace it. • Dealing with uncertainty: • Take post-Driving Boom data seriously • Prioritize projects that make sense for any scenario • Factor uncertainty into cost-benefit calculations with PPPs
2. Support the desire of Millennials and other Americans to drive less • Millennials will be the main beneficiaries and ultimate financiers of any new transportation projects. • Some cities racing to build out transit, bike share and other infrastructure and zoning to enable non-driving choices. • Most of nation’s transportation policies still make new highway investment easier than alternatives.
What if Millennial choices were supported like Post-War boomers? • Expand transportation choices as a priority like building the Interstate Highway System was. • Reassess state and local auto-oriented planning and zoning rules. • Refocus federal investment infrastructure that received less attention during Driving Boom. Also supports Baby Boomers’ changing mobility needs for transit, paratransit.
3. Revisit plans for new or expanded highways • Large portion of highway spending in recent years went to expansion rather than system preservation • Lots of “legacy projects” in the pipeline, approved based on obsolete projections • VMT won’t return to 2007 levels for years, if ever. This is an opportunity: • Reevaluate projects and long-term plans • Refuse additional resources if highway-expansion projects don’t make sense at lower-VMT scenarios
4. Refocus the federal role Enable and invest in strategic national priorities • Bring highways and transit to good state of repair by certain date • Enable multiple modes for communities • Encourage innovation in Internet-connected solutions • Build on new mandated performance metrics
5. Use transportation revenue where it is needed most Tomorrow’s infrastructure should reflect tomorrow’s needs, not the structure of yesterday’s funding silos. State and federal rules restricting use of gas-tax dollars for other transportation uses should be eliminated.