Infrastructure Must Reads: U.S. Transportation Policymakers Ignore Driving's Decline

News you should know about transportation and infrastructure.
May 17, 2013

Transportation policymakers are continuing to project big increases in driving, despite evidence that Americans are driving less, according to a new study by U.S. PIRG.

In 2007, the total vehicle miles driven in America peaked. That's not a new revelation. But officials at U.S. PIRG say that federal officials haven't recognized the new normal when it comes to driving trends, and aren't considering the fact that the trends that led to a driving boom for the last six decades no longer exist. Those include cheap gas, the growth of suburbia, the entrance of millions of women into the workforce and a quickly expanding labor force due to the baby boom generation.

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Today, Americans are showing a growing interest in other modes of transportation, and millennials in particular are showing a predilection for living in urban areas where they won't need to drive vast distances to commute. Yet U.S. PIRG officials say federal planning documents continue to predict big increases in driving despite evidence to the contrary. "A lot of DOTs are still [saying] 'what was the average for the last decade -- let's assume that,'" says Phineas Baxandall, senior policy analyst at U.S. PIRG.

More Must Reads:

-- A study commissioned on climate change by the New Jersey Transit warned of potential damage due to extreme climate events, according to Transportation Nation. It didn't garner much attention, however, and Superstorm Sandy wound up causing $120 million in damages to the agency's fleet.

-- A new study on how the feds' popular Partnership for Sustainable Communities accomplished its de-siloing goals explores what work needs to be done to preserve that legacy.

-- ABC News reports that federal regulators have called for a lowering of the legal blood-alcohol limit from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent, arguing it could save lives.

-- Capital Bikeshare, a subsidiary of Alta Bicycle Share -- the country's largest operator of bike-share services -- is accused of underpaying employees, according to The Washington Post.

-- The excavation of a tunnel designed to provide improved access of freight trucks to the Port of Miami came to an end this month, according to the Miami Herald. The project began in 2011, and the tunnel is expected to be open to traffic next year.

-- An analysis of street inspection data finds huge disparities in the quality of roads in various L.A. neighborhoods, reports the Los Angeles Times The contrast is driven by a strategy that avoids repairs on the worst streets and instead targets resources towards those that are still salvageable.

-- By 2016, Amtrak will have 70 new locomotives that officials say will lead to safer, more reliable service for passengers. The locomotives will cost $466 million, and are being financed by a federal loan.

-- Many New Yorkers are anticipating the debut of the city's new bike-share service this month, reports The New York Times. But some critics say the stations are unattractive and block delivery and fire truck access to some buildings.

-- Just months before the massive $6.4 billion Bay Bridge is set to open, a huge engineering mistake involving steel anchor rods threatens to delay completion of a project that has been under construction for a decade.

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