New Report Shows New Hampshirites Are Driving Less

NHPIRG Education Fund

New Hampshirites’ Driving Is Down 5.8 Percent, Trailing National Trend

New Hampshirites have cut their per-person driving miles by 5.87 percent since 2005, reflecting the end of the nation’s long-term driving boom, according to a new report from the NHPIRG Education Fund. Nationwide, the decline in driving has been even greater than in New Hampshire, with per-person driving miles down 6.87 percent nationwide during the same period.

“In New Hampshire, driving miles are down, just as they are in almost every state –  but less,” said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Policy Analyst for the NHPIRG 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 New Hampshire, people have reduced their driving miles by 16.6 percent per person since 2003, the year when driving in New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire has declined more quickly than in neighboring Massachusetts and Maine, with per-person driving down 4.03 percent in Massachusetts and down 5.02 percent in Maine since 2005. However, driving in Vermont declined more steeply than in New Hampshire, with Vermonters’ driving down 7.92 percent per person during that same period.

“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 New Hampshire’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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NHPIRG 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.