Policy Analysis | July 2008

Effect of High Gasoline Prices on Driving Habits in the South

Mikko Lindberg

With gas prices reaching record highs and public transit ridership surging to unprecedented heights, the latest U.S. Department of Transportation statistics (April 2008) indicate that Americans are driving less for the sixth month in a row. Specifically, Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April 2008 than at the same time a year earlier and 400 million miles less than in March of this year. In addition, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on all public roads for April 2008 fell by 1.8 percent compared with April 2007, a decline of nearly 20 billion miles traveled this year, and nearly 30 billion miles traveled since November 2007.

The following information has been collected from Traffic Volume Trends, a monthly report based on hourly traffic count data reported by the States. These data are collected at approximately 4,000 continuous traffic counting locations (stations) nationwide and are used to estimate the percent change in traffic for the current month compared with the same month in the previous year.

Decreases in Total VMT in the SLC States

March 2007 vs. March 2008


Vehicle Miles Traveled on All Estimated Roads (March)

State Number of Stations Vehicle Miles (in Millions) Percent Change
2007 2008
Alabama - 5,338 5,009 -6.2
Arkansas 33 2,896 2,659 -8.2
Florida 208 18,676 17,812 -4.6
Georgia - 10,210 9,615 -5.8
Kentucky 92 4,041 3,695 -8.6
Louisiana 36 3,794 3,706 -2.3
Maryland 53 4,699 4,577 -2.6
Mississippi - 3,672 3,421 -6.8
Missouri 127 5,696 5,350 -6.1
North Carolina - 8,929 8,368 -6.3
Oklahoma - 4,369 4,063 -7.0
South Carolina 129 4,476 4,246 -5.1
Tennessee 12 6,195 5,662 -8.6
Texas 154 21,580 20,759 -3.8
Virginia 273 6,822 6,595 -3.3
West Virginia - 1,816 1,732 -4.6
SLC 1,117 113,209 107,269 -5.3
Nation 3,549 257,297 246,182 -4.3

Decreases in Total VMT in the SLC States
April 2007 vs. April 2008


Vehicle Miles Traveled on All Estimated Roads (April)

State Number of Stations Vehicle Miles (in Millions) Percent Change
2007 2008
Alabama - 5,242 5,056 -3.6
Arkansas 32 2,539 2,493 -1.8
Florida 207 17,378 16,765 -3.5
Georgia 150 9,979 9,716 -2.6
Kentucky 86 4,023 3,925 -2.4
Louisiana - 3,707 3,669 -1.0
Maryland 53 4,593 4,546 -1.0
Mississippi - 3,575 3,509 -1.9
Missouri 125 5,662 5,487 -3.1
North Carolina - 8,559 8,355 -2.4
Oklahoma - 4,221 4,176 -1.1
South Carolina 129 4,296 4,142 -3.6
Tennessee - 5,909 5,773 -2.3
Texas 156 19,828 19,707 -0.6
Virginia 283 6,694 6,539 -2.3
West Virginia - 1,759 1,745 -0.8
SLC 1,221 107,964 105,603 -2.2
Nation 3,165 250,316 245,888 -1.8

Notes:

  • All Estimated Roads include rural arterial roads, urban arterial roads, and remaining roads and streets.
  • Where Number of Stations are shown as dashes, the values for the Vehicle-Miles and Percent Change are derived from the estimated VMT based on data from surrounding states or the nationwide average VMT.
  • All data for April are preliminary.
  • All vehicle-miles of travel computed with 2006 Table VM-2 as a base.
  • Compiled with data on hand as of June 10, 2008.

Source:

April 2008 Traffic Volume Trends, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation