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Old 12-12-2008, 05:31 AM   #1
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Driving continues to decline as gas prices drop

Friday, December 12, 2008
WASHINGTON - Drivers clocked 9 billion fewer miles on the nation's roads in October even while gas prices were dropping, suggesting a downturn in driving that began a year ago is attributable to more than just energy costs.

Federal Highway Administration data released Friday show the number of miles driven dropped 3.5 percent in October compared with the same month a year ago. Between November 2007, when the driving decline began, and October, Americans drove 100 billion fewer miles. That's the largest continuous decline in driving the nation has experienced.

Gas prices averaged $3.15 a gallon in October, down from a high of $4.09 in July, according to the Energy Information Administration.

"The fact that the trend persists even as gas prices are dropping confirms that America's travel habits are fundamentally changing," Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said in a statement.

The data show the region it describes as the South Atlantic - a block of eight states and Washington, D.C. - experienced the biggest decline in October of any region, 5 percent fewer vehicle miles. Montana's 8.4 percent driving decline was the largest of any state, followed by Utah with 7.4 percent, and South Carolina with 6.7 percent.

The highway administration collects the driving data from more than 4,000 automatic traffic recorders operated around-the-clock by state highway agencies.

While driving declined, subways, buses, commuter rail and light-rail systems have reported record increases in ridership. Amtrak, the nation's intercity passenger railroad, said it carried the highest number of passengers and brought in the most revenue in fiscal 2008 in its 37-year history.

It's likely the economic crisis is an important factor in the driving decline, said David Goldberg, a spokesman for Transportation for America, a coalition of groups pressing for more alternatives to driving.

"We regularly see fewer trips being made in economic downturns," Goldberg said. "I think when we probe these numbers we'll find that a lot of people have figured out how to telework or how to go into the office fewer days. And having experienced that and made that work, I think they'll continue to save the money and the time and effort and reduce some of those trips."

Peters expressed concern that the decline in driving is widening a gap between federal gas tax revenues and the government's commitments to fund state and local highway repair and construction projects. Congress made an emergency infusion of $8 billion earlier this year from the general treasury to cover an expected shortfall in the fund.

"As driving decreases and vehicle fuel efficiency continues to improve, the long-term viability of the Highway Trust Fund grows weaker," Peters said.

Federal safety officials reported Thursday that auto fatalities dropped almost 10 percent in 2008 through October, a trend that is likely influenced by the driving decline.


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Now this is interesting.
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Old 12-12-2008, 06:18 AM   #2
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Peters expressed concern that the decline in driving is widening a gap between federal gas tax revenues and the government's commitments to fund state and local highway repair and construction projects. Congress made an emergency infusion of $8 billion earlier this year from the general treasury to cover an expected shortfall in the fund.
Therein lies the rub.

Government will tax citizens more as less miles are traveled because it is grossly inefficient.
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Old 12-12-2008, 01:46 PM   #3
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just a very general observation...

it seems many continue to consume and spend as prices increase(and accumilate debt as a byproduct); however, when income is lost, THEN those individuals choose to conserve!
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Old 12-12-2008, 03:26 PM   #4
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Therein lies the rub.

Government will tax citizens more as less miles are traveled because it is grossly inefficient.
Georgia is planning on droping its fuel tax by 4 cents Jan 1, the tax is directly tied into the cost of fuel. The higher the price, the higher the tax, seems to me it would be more efficient to go the other way, the lower the price, the higher the tax. Good old Government at work.
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Old 12-12-2008, 06:02 PM   #5
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I'll take a lower Ga tax. I'm planning a trip to Florida in Jan, and I always fillup in Georgia before I get to Florida!

-Jay
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Old 12-14-2008, 12:16 PM   #6
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see, there is common logic here at work. It's winter. I've put less than 1000 miles on my car since September, while in August and July I put close to 4000 miles. I didn't see anything in the article about standard deviations or other real statistical data. Maybe they didn't post it, but it sure doesn't look like they did a good job either way.
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Old 12-15-2008, 05:27 AM   #7
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http://www.charlotteobserver.com/597/story/415604.html

With gas-tax revenues plummeting, the state of North Carolina is looking seriously at taxing motorists for how far they drive.

If the ?road-use tax? is implemented, it would at first be simple ? with the state checking your odometer annually and taxing you based on how many miles you have driven. But transportation experts say new GPS technology could allow the state to charge people different rates based on when and where they drive, in an attempt to manage congestion.

Talk of a Vehicle Miles Traveled tax has long been discussed as a necessity in a decade or so, because cars are becoming more fuel efficient, and states and the federal government are losing gas-tax revenue.

But there is now a sense of urgency about the new VMT tax. When gas hit $4 a gallon this summer, Americans sharply curtailed their driving. And when the economy cratered this fall, the driving rollback continued, even when gas prices plummeted.

The 21st Century Transportation Committee suggested that, in addition to the gas tax, motorists pay a quarter-cent for each mile they drive, with the first 2,000 miles annually free. A motorist who drives 12,000 miles a year would pay $25 ? possibly due when the driver gets the car inspected.

It's unlikely the General Assembly will add a new tax in 2009, during a recession.

But the N.C. Department of Transportation will need help soon. Revenue from the motor fuel tax of 29.9 cents per gallon is down 12 percent this year, and the state expects a three-year loss of $580 million.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that Americans drove 100 billion fewer miles between November 2007 and October 2008 ? the largest continuous decline in history.

?The status quo isn't an option,? said Mark Finlayson, who co-chairs the transportation advocacy group N.C. Go!. ?Cars are now using less fuel, but they are still putting wear and tear on the roads.?
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Old 12-15-2008, 05:30 AM   #8
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But transportation experts say new GPS technology could allow the state to charge people different rates based on when and where they drive, in an attempt to manage congestion.
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