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Study: Arizonans Driving Less, Favoring Bicycling, Public Transit

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PHOTO: A study out this week says Arizonans are driving less and using public transportation more. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
PHOTO: A study out this week says Arizonans are driving less and using public transportation more. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
July 22, 2014

PHOENIX - According to a study out this week, Arizonans are driving less in favor of bicycling and utilizing public transportation options, such as those provided by Phoenix Metro Light Rail.

The study from the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and St. Luke's Health Initiatives is titled "Bikes, Trains and Less Driving." It reveals that from 2005 to 2012, Arizonans on average traveled nearly 11 percent fewer vehicle miles each year. Diane Brown with Arizona PIRG says the reduction in driving is being driven by 18-to-34 year-olds, known as the Millennial generation.

"The Millennials are more likely than the rest of the population to use public transportation and walk or bike to their destination," says Brown. "They're do so in an effort to protect the environment."

Brown says additional factors fueling the drop in driving around the state are more Arizonans are working from home, and are purchasing retail goods online - thereby saving a trip to the store. She says the trend of driving less is occurring throughout the nation for the same reasons it's happening in Arizona.

According to Brown, transportation planners continue to operate under the assumption Americans will drive more each year, not less. She says planning priorities should be refocused.

"We need to make sure more money is going to repairing our existing infrastructure," she says, "and building and planning for more public-transit opportunities."

The study also found annual ridership on the Light Rail and Valley Metro buses in Phoenix is at record levels - increasing from 60 million to 75 million. Brown says Tucson probably will experience a big surge in public transportation as the city launches its "Sun Link" streetcar system this week.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ