Sunday, August 10, 2008

Driving down and gasoline revenues down too

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal describing how changes in driving habits are affecting tax revenues:

An unprecedented cutback in driving is slashing the funds available to rebuild the nation's aging highway system and expand mass-transit options, underscoring the economic impact of high gasoline prices. The resulting financial strain is touching off a political battle over government priorities in a new era of expensive oil.

A report to be released Monday by the Transportation Department shows that over the past seven months, Americans have reduced their driving by more than 40 billion miles. Because of high gasoline prices, they drove 3.7% fewer miles in May than they did a year earlier, the report says, more than double the 1.8% drop-off seen in April.

The cutback furthers many U.S. policy goals, such as reducing oil consumption and curbing emissions. But, coupled with a rapid shift away from gas-guzzling vehicles, it also means consumers are paying less in federal fuel taxes, which go largely to help finance highway and mass-transit systems. As a result, many such projects may have to be pared down or eliminated.


As debate revs up, the retreat from the roads shows how consumers are altering the transportation equation. With driving down, the number of people riding Amtrak has risen 11% this year, and mass-transit systems in many areas, including Seattle and South Florida, are experiencing ridership increases of 30% or more, according to the American Public Transit Association.

APTA President William Millar rides Washington's Metro rail each weekday between his home downtown and Falls Church, Va. He used to be able to find a seat at some point on his trip, but these days, he said, "I can't even squeeze onto the train" during the afternoon rush.

Earlier this year, the House passed legislation that would provide an additional $1.7 billion to transit agencies over two years. Both chambers have passed bills that would significantly boost Amtrak funding.

In other non-driving news, a New York Times article talks about the benefits of living in an older (i.e. more walkable) neighborhood.

Can where you live play a role in how much you weigh? A new study finds that it can, and reports that people who live in older neighborhoods appear less likely to be overweight.

The key, the researchers say, is walkability. Older communities are more likely to encourage people to drive less and walk more, which can help keep weight down.


With each extra decade of a neighborhood’s age, the researchers said, the risk of obesity was 13 percent lower for men and 8 percent lower for women.

There are several reasons older neighborhoods are more walkable, said the lead author, Ken R. Smith of the University of Utah: better sidewalks, trees to provide shade and intersections at shorter intervals.

But older neighborhoods have something even more basic when it comes to luring someone into heading out on foot.

“You always want to have something to walk to,” Dr. Smith said. And unlike many modern residential areas, older communities may have stores and other businesses near houses.

1 comment:

MeekoRouse said...

that sounds like all the more reason for folks to move downtown or to plan things with better urban centers.. New Urbanism is about moving to the smaller city core.. with the amenities the need (childcare, gyms, cafes, offices, etc) all within a 2mi. radius. Then again, if you can't people who move downtown to give up their cars it makes it more difficult. Places like SF, NYC, and Chicago have such a bigger headstart on the whole "walkability" thing with such great mobile infrastructures in place.

ehhh I'm babbling. good article! =)