This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 11, 2009

U.S. Transit Use Up, Driving Down in 2008

Photo of a six-wheeled hybrid bus with a flexible joint behind the second pair of wheels. The bus is on a city street.

In 2008, U.S. residents drove less and made greater use of mass transit, including buses.
Credit: Ned Ahrens, King County

The number of miles traveled by vehicles in the United States fell by 3.6% in 2008, while the number of trips taken on public transportation increased by 4.0%, according to statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The DOT estimated that U.S. residents traveled 2.922 trillion miles in 2008, down from 3.030 trillion miles in 2007, a reduction of nearly 108 billion miles. In fact, U.S. driving has been declining for 14 months, for a total vehicle travel reduction of 115 billion miles. The DOT found the greatest decrease in rural driving, which was down by 4.2%, suggesting that people are simply driving less in rural areas. Meanwhile, urban driving decreased by 3.2%. See the DOT traffic trends from December 2008, along with the DOT press release.

At least part of the drop in urban driving can be explained by the 4% increase in the use of public transportation. U.S. residents took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation in 2008, according to APTA, reaching the highest level of ridership in 52 years. Light rail experienced the greatest increase, at 8.3%, in part because of relatively new and expanded service in places like Charlotte, North Carolina, and restored service in New Orleans, Louisiana. For other mass transit modes, commuter rail increased by 4.7%, subway ridership increased by 3.5%, bus ridership increased by 3.9%, and paratransit (on-demand transit services) increased by 5.9%. See the APTA press release and the full statistics.