USA Today always makes a point to cover national trends in transportation, and Larry Copeland and Paul Overberg’s piece last week is no exception. “Economy, gas prices make Americans drive less” is an excellent summary of the recent changes in vehicle miles traveled, or VMT. The general story is this: Americans have sustained annualized driving drops for six consecutive months, the longest sustained drop since 2008. This also comes at a time when the country showed positive economic growth--2 percent annualized growth in the third quarter--and a string of positive, private sector job reports.
It’s like Beatlemania for roads and rails—a national infrastructure bank. While the idea has been kicking around the Obama administration and Capitol Hill and the chattering classes for a long time, yesterday the president explicitly proposed creating one, capitalized with $50 billion “to leverage federal dollars and focus on the smartest investments.” A national infrastructure bank has also long been central to our ideas on reforming America’s Rube Goldberg-esque transportation financing system.
Even the most well-intentioned public policy can have unintended consequences. President Obama’s promise of doubling exports offers one thread of a broader strategy for getting our economy back on track. Increasing our output of goods to ship and sell abroad implies that if all goes well, a growing number of goods will be transported to one of our 400 ports. Yet, as Rob Puentes has determined, our top 15 ports already move over 73 percent of the value of international freight.
About a month ago USA Today ran a great series of stories about the new uptick in national driving, measured by vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and changing traffic patterns. My initial reaction to this increase was that, although national driving is up, we’re still driving less on a per person basis. In other words, as long as population goes up more people will drive their cars--but this says nothing about our behavior as individuals.
It’s a common story in the U.S.