Americans have reduced how far they drove annually in recent years, with Floridians trimming their average by more than the national norm, a U.S. PIRG Education Fund study released Thursday indicates.
Floridians reduced their annual per-person driving miles by 11.1 percent from 2005 to 2011, when they drove an average of 10,067 miles, compared with the national average decline of 6.9 percent to 9,445 miles in 2011, the report indicated.
“In Florida, driving miles are down, just as they are in almost every state - only more,” said Dalyn Houser, an associate for the Florida PIRG Education Fund. “It is time for policy makers to wake up and realize the (60-year) driving boom is over.
“We need to reconsider expensive highway expansions and focus on alternatives such as public transit and biking, which people increasingly use to get around.”
The report by Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst for tax and budget policy for the Boston-based public information research advocacy group, used Federal Highway Administration data gathered by state Departments of Transportation that was cross-checked for standard methodology.
The trend toward lower per-person driving miles is led by transportation preferences among Millennials, who have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation's largest generation.
Average driving miles for Americans aged 16 to 34 fell sharply by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009, the report said based on another 2013 PIRG report .
The report suggested four reasons to be skeptical about dismissing the apparent end of the “Driving boom” as simply a by-product of the recession: a per-capita driving decline began before the recession and has continued afterward; a University of Michigan research project showed number of vehicles per person, vehicles per licensed driver, and vehicles per household peaked between 2001 and 2006; driving per person declined among both those with and without jobs; and Gross Domestic Product has ceased to move in tandem with the volume of driving since the beginning of the last decade.
“The thing most shocking is the de-coupling of GDP growth and driving for the first time in the modern age,” said Kevin Thurman, executive director of Connect Tampa Bay, a transportation advocacy group.
Bob Lasher, spokesman for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, said he's not surprised from recent bus ridership and anecdotal accounts that the average auto mileage per driver is in decline.
Lasher said he recently met two unmarried mothers at a bus station who are students at St. Petersburg College, both of whom had to choose between repairing and replacing their cars that had broken down or remaining in college.
“They said they needed to stay in college and get their degree, so they were using the bus,” Lasher said.
Critics of the report's conclusion to refocus priorities from expanding highways are likely to seize on the lack of options for intercity transportation, in particular in Florida.