New Report Shows Iowans Are Driving Less

Media Contacts
Sonia Ashe

Iowans Driving is Down 3.6 Percent, Trailing National Trend

Iowa PIRG Education Fund

Des Moines – Iowans have cut their per-person driving miles by 2.47 percent since 2005, while the nation’s long term driving boom appears to have ended, according to a new report from the Iowa PIRG Education Fund.  This trails the national average decline of 6.87%. 

“In Iowa, driving miles are down, just as they are in almost every state – just less,” said Sonia Ashe, Advocate for the Iowa 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,” based on the most current available government data. Among its findings:

  • In Iowa, people have reduced their driving miles by 3.6 percent per person since driving peaked in 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. 

“The research clearly indicates that travel trends are changing.  People are driving less and using alternate forms of transportation more and more.  This has implications for America and the way we live,” said Glenn Lyons, President of the Des Moines Downtown Community Alliance. “New investments in urban public transit and regional passenger rail are called for to support these trends.  These alternate forms of transportation are viable in many cities and regions today; our reliance on them should be expected to grow in the future.”

Investments in alternative transportation options like passenger rail have continually been put on the back-burner here in Iowa, in spite of this shift in driving trends. While Iowa has maintained the $86 million in federal funding to get new passenger rail rolling along the I-80 corridor, it will be up to legislators this year to use it or lose it. 

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

Download the report, “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis on the National Decline in Driving.” 

Download the infographic U.S. PIRG created to illustrate the end of the Driving Boom

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Iowa PIRG Education Fund works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation. www.iowapirgedfund