New Report Shows Missourians Are Driving Less

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MoPIRG Foundation

Missourians’ Driving Is Down 3.4 Percent, Trailing National Trend

Missourians have cut their per-person driving miles by 3.45 percent since 2005, reflecting the end of the nation’s long-term driving boom, according to a new report from the MoPIRG Foundation. Nationwide, the decline in driving has been even greater than in Missouri, with per-person driving miles down 6.87 percent nationwide during the same period.

“In Missouri, driving miles are down, just as they are in almost every state –  but less,” said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Policy Analyst for the MoPIRG Foundation. “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:

  • Missouri, people have reduced their driving miles by 6.2 percent per person since 1999, the year when driving in Missouri hit its peak.
  • 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.
  • Driving in Missouri has decreased more quickly than in most neighboring states. Since 2005, per-person driving declined by 2.47 percent in Iowa, 2.50 percent in Arkansas, and 3.12 percent in Kansas.
  • Driving decreased more quickly in Illinois than in Missouri, with Illinoisans driving 4.94 percent less per-person since 2005.

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

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

Download this infographic we created to illustrate the end of the Driving Boom.

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MoPIRG Foundation works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation.