In the news

Maryland PIRG
|
The Frederick News Post
By
Kelsi Loos

Marylanders are driving less these days, according to a report by the Maryland PIRG Foundation, a public interest research group.

The amount of miles driven per person in the state fell more than 4 percent between 2005 and 2011.

Forty-five other states also saw a reduction in driving miles, according to the report. Nationally, this is the eighth consecutive year that Americans have driven less.

Maryland PIRG concluded that the post-World War II "driving boom," driven by the growth of the suburbs, low gas prices and increased car ownership, may be coming to an end.

"It’s time for policymakers to wake up and realize the driving boom is over," said Joanna Guy, program associate for the Maryland Foundation, in a statement. "We need to reconsider expensive highway expansions and focus on alternatives such as public transit and biking — which people increasingly use to get around."

The report states the Millennial generation, 16- to 34-year-olds, led the trend by driving 23 fewer miles in 2009 than in 2001. That decline was the biggest of any age group.

Driving miles peaked in 2007. Since then, Marylanders have reduced their driving by 4.1 percent.

The timing of the decline might suggest the recession was largely responsible for people cutting back on their mileage. However, Maryland PIRG found the states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn.

Three out of four of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation, according to the foundation.

However, TransIT spokeswoman Margie Weaver said she had observed that saving money was a big incentive for Transit riders in Frederick County.

"People either have just one vehicle,” she said. “Some just can't afford to own a car.”

An average-income family will spend just over $8,000 a year owning and maintaining a car, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report released in 2008.

A year of TransIT passes at the monthly rate comes to $540.

Weaver said young people might be more interested than others in using Transit as a way to reduce their environmental impact because they have grown up with more awareness about environmental issues than older generations.

"They want to be more green," she said. "They want to contribute to a cleaner environment.”

The surrounding areas have also seen significant decreases in driving between 2005 and 2011, according to the report.

Virginia’s driving rate dropped 7 percent; Washington's dropped 14.4 percent.

Changes to Commuter Connector routes

The route 65 and 60 commuter connector buses will have a new route Tuesday. Check the updated route on TransIT brochures or visit frederickcountymd.gov/index.aspx?nid=225.