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Transportation

bridgesferriesdelay • driving • park-and-ridetransit


Updated Feb 29 2016, by Gary Simonson, PSRC

Miles Traveled By Car Starting to Rise

Figure 1. Daily Vehicle Miles Traveled
Figure 1. Daily Vehicle Miles Traveled

“Vehicle Miles Traveled” is a measure that demonstrates how much people are traveling about the region. The amount of vehicle miles traveled has impacts on the amount of traffic on our roads and the amount of ozone and carbon dioxide emitted into the air. A goal of our integrated land use and transportation planning is to increase the number of travel options available to people and to lower the amount of vehicle miles traveled by automobile. Reducing the amount of miles driven per capita is an integral part of the State’s Climate Change Policy and a key part of the Region’s Four-Part Greenhouse Gas Strategy.

The total annual vehicle miles traveled in the PSRC Region has remained fairly flat regionally since 2010, even though the region has been experiencing strong population and job growth since 2010. The daily miles driven per person was approximately 21.4 miles per person per day in 2014, levels last seen in the late 1980’s and below the peak of 24 miles per person per day in the late 1990’s. Regional data will not be available until the summer of 2016 but initial trends around the state show a possible increase in VMT occurred in 2015.

Figure 2. Daily Vehicle Miles Traveled Per Person
Figure 2. Daily Vehicle Miles Traveled Per Person

What about the state as a whole?

Although VMT per Capita still remained below 2010 levels in 2015, there has been a fairly strong growth in miles traveled around the state in the past year. This growth in VMT can likely be attributed to our strong economy and population growth but also the cost of fuel. As shown in the figure below, VMT changes since 2010 around the state has mirrored the average cost of gas – with VMT generally increasing as the cost of fuel has decreased. The sharp drop in fuel prices in 2015 is likely a large indicator of the strong growth in VMT in 2015.

Figure 3. Daily Vehicle Miles Traveled Statewide
Figure 3. Daily Vehicle Miles Traveled Statewide

What are Future Implications?

Low fuel prices and continued population and job growth looks to be increasing overall VMT over the past few years. VMT per capita remains below the highs of the late 1990’s but it will be important to return to reductions in the amount of vehicle miles traveled per person to maintain our air quality and traffic congestions goals.