New Report Shows Illinoisans are Driving Less

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Driving is Down 6.6% in the State

Illinois PIRG Education Fund

Illinoisans have cut their per-person driving miles by 6.6 percent since 2005, while the nation’s long term driving boom appears to have ended, according to a new report from the Illinois PIRG Education Fund.

“In Illinois, driving miles are down, just as they are in almost every state,” said Brian Imus, state Director for the Illinois PIRG Education Fund. “It’s time for policy makers to wake up and realize the 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, “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 Illinois, people have reduced their driving miles by 6.6 percent per person since 2004. 

•    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.

•    Illinoisans drive per person less than any other Midwestern state.

The report underscores the need to reevaluate new highway projects like the proposed Illiana Expressway. The 47 mile highway linking Illinois and Indiana in Will County is estimated to cost $1.25 billion despite controversy over its necessity and a backlog of current road and bridge repair needs.

“Given these trends, we need to press the reset button on our transportation policy,” said Imus. “Just because past transportation investments overwhelmingly went to highway construction, doesn’t mean that continues to be the right choice for Illinois’ future.”