New Report Shows Connecticut Residents Are Driving Less

Connecticut Residents’ Driving Is Down 3.45 Percent, Trailing National Trend

ConnPIRG Education Fund

Connecticut Residents have cut their per-person driving miles by 3.45 percent since 2005, while the nation’s long term driving boom appears to have ended, according to a new report from the ConnPIRG Education Fund. 

“In Connecticut, driving miles are down, just as they are in almost every state – but less,” said Abe Scarr, Director of the ConnPIRG Education Fund. “It’s time for policy makers to recognize that the driving boom is over. We need to reconsider expensive highway expansions and focus on alternatives such as public transportation and biking—which people increasingly use to get around.”

The report, “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving,” is based on the most current available government data. Among its findings:

  • In Connecticut, people have reduced their driving miles by 3.45% since 2005 when the national trend in driving peaked.
  • The state’s per capita driving peaked in 2007.  Since then, driving has decreased by 4.8 percent per person.
  • This decline in driving is a national trend. Forty-five other states have reduced per-person driving since the middle of the last decade.
  • After World War II, the nation’s driving miles increased steadily almost every year, creating a “driving boom.” Driven by the growth of the suburbs, low gas prices, and increased auto ownership, the boom lasted 60 years. Now, in stark contrast, the average number of miles driven by Americans is in its eight consecutive year of decline, led by declines among Millennials.
  • The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation.
  • Connecticut has had the slowest decline in driving in New England, but has the second lowest vehicle miles traveled per person in region, behind Rhode Island.

“Connecticut’s investment in critical transit projects like CTfastrak and the New Haven-Springfield commuter rail line show that transportation decisions better reflect changing travel preferences of residents,” said Ryan Lynch, associate director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit policy watchdog. “That is why the widening of I-84 in Waterbury is misguided, outdated, and a waste of limited resources. The Department would provide more value to taxpayers by redirecting those resources to bolster transit and to improve walking and biking, particularly in downtowns and along main streets.” 

In June Governor Malloy and Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker announced the launch of a multi-year strategic planning process, Transform CT, which aims to “improve economic growth and competitiveness, build sustainability, and provide a blueprint for a world-class transportation system.”  Transform CT has launched an interactive website to gather public input and will be holding events throughout the fall to engage the public on the future of transportation in Connecticut.

“This strategic planning process could not have come at a better time,” said Scarr.  “The Millineal generation is leading the decrease in driving and will be using and paying for our transportation system for years to come.  It is critical that Connecticut plans a system that reflects how people are getting around and want to get around.”