A new study from U.S. PIRG gives us perhaps the most detailed yet look at the “peak car” phenomenon whereby America’s passenger-miles driven keeps falling. As Ashley Halsey writes (washpo. 04.12.13), perhaps the most important contention of the report is “data that show the cities with the biggest drop in driving suffered no greater unemployment peaks than those cities where driving declined the least.”
PIRG’s takeaway is that it’s time to stop lavishly funding new highway construction and instead focus money on a mix of maintaining existing infrastructure and improving mass transit services. I agree with that, but the budget allocations are in some ways the smallest pieces of the puzzle. The real gains are to be made in rolling back the implicit subsidies to parking and barriers to multi-family apartments, leveling the regulatory playing field between private cars and private transit (slate, 21.06.12), and looking at operational issues that prevent cost-effective transit operations in the United States (slate, 12.11.13.).