Pa. logging fewer miles in vehicles, opting for alternative forms of transit

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In nearly every state in the nation, people logged fewer miles per capita between 2005 and 2011, a study released Thursday showed.

The study, prepared by the Philadelphia-based PennPIRG, showed that Pennsylvania is among the leaders in the trend of Americans getting out of their cars, with a 10.44 percent drop in the number of vehicle miles driven per person between 2005 and 2011. The state was ninth overall in the drop of vehicle miles driven per capita.

The authors of the study, titled "Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving," concluded that the move out of cars into public transit and onto bikes and sidewalks is not just a side effect of the economic crisis.

"This study finds that declining rates of driving do not correspond with how badly states suffered economically in recent years," the authors wrote in an executive summary.

In addition to looking at the year-by-year rates of driving miles per person, the study also looked at unemployment rates of states in attempt to gauge what impact the economic climate had on whether or not people drove. The study concluded the economic downturn was not enough to explain the lower odometer readings.

This suggests that the trend of Americans driving less will persist even as the economy rebounds. "Now that the economy is in an upswing, relatively, you still have this decline in driving," said Ashley Afranie-Sakyi, a PennPIRG program associate.

Other studies have shown that Millenials, roughly defined as the generation born after 1981, are getting driver's licenses later than their counterparts born two decades earlier and are less interested in purchasing vehicles.

"With the Millenial generation, there are more and more people choosing not to purchase a vehicle," Ms. Afranie-Sakyi said. "Even for people who have vehicles, they're driving less."

PennPIRG believes that this trend should be reflected in transportation policy, with more support for public transit and for bike lanes rather than widening roadways to account for vehicle traffic that may never grow.

"We shouldn't be spending money on things like widening highways when we could spend it on alternative transportation," she said. "That's not going to cut it anymore because that's not how people are traveling."

Scott Bricker, executive director of BikePGH, said so far, transportation funding has not reflected this shifting reality.

"They're not investing enough in alternative modes of transportation," he agreed.

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Moriah Balingit:, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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