Steady Decline of Miles Driven Reaches Eighth Month

According to new data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation, since last November, Americans have driven 53.2 billion miles less than they did over the same period a year earlier -- topping the 1970s' total decline of 49.3 billion miles. U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters released a statement yesterday using the data to push for new sources of revenue. "We can't afford to continue pinning our transportation network's future to the gas tax. Advances in higher fuel-efficiency vehicles and alternative fuels are making the gas tax an even less sustainable support for funding roads, bridges, and transit systems."

Americans drove 4.7 percent less, or 12.2 billion miles fewer, in June 2008 than June 2007. The decline is most evident in rural travel, which has fallen by 4 percent--compared to the 1.2 percent decline in urban miles traveled--since the trend began last November.

Last month, Secretary Peters unveiled the DOT's transportation reform plan which offers lawmakers several options to consider when Congress takes up highway and transit legislation next year. "It really makes little sense to try to upgrade our infrastructure using a revenue source as ineffective, unsustainable, and unpopular as the fuel tax," she added.

As Americans drive fewer miles, less revenue is generated for the Highway Trust Fund from gasoline and diesel sales--18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon, respectively. During the first quarter of 2008, motorists consumed nearly 400 million fewer gallons of gasoline, or about 1.3 percent less than during the same period in 2007, and 7 percent less--or 318 million gallons--of diesel.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) collects vehicle-miles-traveled data for all motor vehicles through more than 4,000 automatic traffic recorders operated round-the-clock by state highway agencies. To review FHWA's "Traffic Volume Trends" reports, including that of June 2008, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/tvtw/tvtpage.htm.

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