In the article below, believe the statistics, but forget the explanation. Yes, rising gas prices and a weak economy reduces miles driven. No doubt. But, that's only a part of it.
There are many reasons beyond the economy to which we can attribute fewer miles driven. A major one is the exponential explosion of information technologies that permit virtual interactions in the business sector.
Also, travel is becoming far more expensive than ever, regardless of the economy. That imposes a shrinkage in the travel market. That there is a permanently shrinking jobs market is also a factor. Then, think about the rapid growth of the at-home and self-empoyed work-force; they are obviously commuting less.
What's most important for us is the fact that this decline has been achieved with zero high-speed rail in California, or in the US for that matter (excluding the Acela in the Northeast Corridor.)
Speaking about California, it is a rash presumption that there a.) will be a far larger population, b.) that the growing population belongs to the high-speed rail market niche, c.) that the demand for inter-city transit will increase, and d.) that inter-city transit requires high-speed rail (as distinct from regular fast rail).
In any case, high-speed rail will not reduce vehicle use. High-speed rail use is a self-limiting niche in the transit universe. It occupies a place that cannot be met by either driving or flying.
Both driving and flying will improve significantly over the next ten years, well before the completion of the proposed high-speed train in California. By improve, I mean all those attributes now cited to be superior with high-speed rail, environment, fuel consumption, congestion, etc.
And, most important, even though there may be more of us, we will be transiting more selectively and in a more limited way. Costs will surely rise. Business travel needs will surely decline; that is happening already. The well known income gap will increase, restricting luxury travel to a smaller, if wealthier population.
And, make no mistake, high-speed rail is luxury travel. It's as if all the air carriers agreed to fly their first-class passengers on separate, faster and more luxurious airplanes than the coach-class "cattle cars".
All of which is to say that each day there emerges new information that high-speed rail is an unnecessary luxury that we can't afford to build and don't need.
Americans are Driving Less
11:50 AM CST, February 21, 2012
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To commuters, it may seem like traffic is at an all-time high, but motorists in the U.S. logged fewer miles last year, according to the Federal Highway Administration. In fact, 2011 marked the lowest level measured since 2003.
The agency, an arm of the U.S Department of Transportation, continuously monitors traffic at 4,000 locations nationwide. Data released by the government shows that U.S. motorists drove 2.96 trillion miles last year, down 1.2% from 2010. That's the lowest number of miles since U.S. drivers logged 2.89 trillion miles in 2003.
Why the drop-off? Rising gas prices and a weak economy have prompted people to pinch pennies, putting the brakes on driving. It's not just happening in cities, either. According to the study, travel on rural roads declined more than travel on city streets, but urban driving makes up two-thirds of all driving in the U.S.