NYT: Driving Shifts Into Reverse

This interesting graphic from the New York Times shows the price of a gallon of gas on the y-axis and miles driven per capita each year on the x-axis. Until recently, miles driven have increased pretty much every year with only a few exceptions. In the past, reductions in the number of miles driven have corresponded with spikes in gas prices. Starting in 2005 we saw a reduction in driving that initially coincided with a major spike in gas prices, but interestingly, the trend has continued even as prices have come back down.

View the full-size graphic at the NYT

5 Responses to “NYT: Driving Shifts Into Reverse”

  • Sharper says:

    I’m happy to help move the line leftward.

  • Fergie348 says:

    As it mentions in the accompanying article, the primary reasons for the reduction this time are recession related (fewer jobs, less goods being trucked around). The big question for transportation planners and bike dorks like us is what happens when the economy turns around to the point where the unemployment rate comes down to ~6% and people start buying things again.

    I have two simple suggestions that would support local purchasing and also support using transit and bicycles for shorter trips. They are also politically unpopular because they are taxes.

    1. Raise the Federal gasoline excise tax from its current rate of 18.4 cents/Gallon to about 65 cents/Gallon. The Federal diesel fuel tax is currently 24.4 cents/Gallon. Let’s raise that to about 58 cents/Gallon. This will have the effect of promoting ultra low carbon Diesel engines here (It’s about time..) and will reduce driving by up to 20%. It will raise the cost of goods produced far away, but that’s what we’re trying to discourage anyway. To blunt the economic pain, we can reduce the Federal tax rate by an equivalent amount for all taxpayers.

    2. Institute a nationwide VAT on goods sold of about 10% and reduce federal income tax by an equivalent rate across all brackets except for the highest one. This will have several effects, encouraging local buying and levelling the playing field so that local merchants have a chance to compete with internet wholesalers.

    What do you say? Who’s with me?

  • Graham says:

    As am I. I have discovered that transportational cycling is much different than sport and provides a very unique and hard to quantify satisfaction. I’ll keep doing it as long as possible!

  • MU says:

    You will note that gas prices are are on a long, fairly linear drop except where interrupted by event related spikes. Certainly helps to explain some of th transportation choices we’ve been making in the last 50 years (and why at least indexing gas taxes to inflation is important.)

  • sbcommute says:

    Glad i could contribute in some small way back to the more logical left.

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