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Study: Fewer Miles Logged on the Road, But Have We Really Changed?

February 12, 2009

Madison, WI - The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reports Wisconsinites drove a lot less in November and that has many environmentalists wondering if we've changed our driving habits for good. Most Americans drove a lot less in November of 2008 when compared with the year before. The question many are pondering now is - why? The DOT reports vehicle miles logged in the north-central part of the nation were down 5.3 percent.

Eric Sundquist watches transportation trends at the Center on Wisconsin Strategy at the University of Wisconsin.

"Everybody is trying to watch this really carefully to see whether the fuel price shock of '08 really has a lasting effect. Of course it's confounded with the economic downturn."

The new study certainly is encouraging for those who hope for a greener future, says Sundquist. But, he admits it will take time to determine whether driving habits have truly changed, or the economic situation is delivering the lower numbers.

"Vehicle miles traveled are still down over 5 percent compared to the year before in November, and that's a pretty big jump in these long term trends. But, it's not quite clear how much of it is that and how much of it is new habits or people resorting to transit or what have you."

Sundquist finds encouragement in the fact that gas prices had fallen by the study period and vehicle miles were still down. Many mass transit systems in the region set ridership records last year as well. The DOT report can be found at

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - WI