WASHINGTON MOTORISTS DRIVING LESS: HIGH GAS PRICES TAKE TOLL
July 18, 2008
(Snohomish County, WA) -- Soaring gas prices, a week national economy, growing unemployment, job lay offs and other factors may have combined to produce a sizeable reduction in statewide traffic volumes in June.
WSDOT Chart: State Drivers Curb Wheel time
According to data released by the Washington State Department of Transportation in late July, June’s drop in statewide traffic of 5% “is rather amazing” said WSDOT’s Loyd Brown.
June’s numbers show that traffic statewide was nearly 5 percent less than it was in 2007, 2006 and in 2005. The graph shows all three years in order to visualize the trend.
What makes the June numbers significant is that typically Americans drive more each and every year, not less. WSDOT would normally expect a 3 percent increase in a typical year. In the first five months of 2008 WSDOT tracked a roughly 2 percent drop in volume. But in June, driving “tanked" says Brown.
Take a good look at the chart. It shows the average monthly gas prices along with the drop in traffic volumes. And as the price of gas goes up, you see the drop in traffic volumes.
Comments from citizens around the state to WSDOT’s web page posting seem to confirm that the price of gasoline is the major factor in cutting down on driving. One anonymous poster to the site put it this way: “Yep, I've been affected by the higher prices. My commute from Lake Stevens has gone form about $200 a month to over $400 a month. I'm riding my motorcycle more. When this project closes out next month I will begin a project in Seattle. Might be able to take the Sounder then. That will save me about $200 a month.
Yep…$4.00 gas will reduce the number of vehicles. It will also result in a radical lifestyle change for everyone. Gee, just think what we could do with $10 a gallon. Then EVERYONE would be off the roads.
Of course, you would starve to death because the farmers couldn't produce and the delivery system couldn't get it to you at a price you could afford. But, then, the government could tax you the rest of your income and provide to you the fruits you want. Soylent Green anyone?”
Another anonymous poster wrote, “Good, less drivers and people getting more fuel efficient cars will bring down the price of fuel and oil. Expect to see prices drop in the next few weeks.”
And a writer from Belfair said, “The gas inflation is affecting me big time. I live in a rural area -Belfair and to go anyplace costs. Nothing is close. The closest store for me is 6 miles. I only work part time and not to my choosing. Can't find ft. But I plan each trip and make less trips.”
National figures recently released by Cambridge Energy Research Associates show that Americans around the country are also driving less. The report, released in June, said that demand for gas in the United State will likely decline in 2008 for first time in more than seventeen years.
The last time gas consumption declined for a meaningful period in the U.S. was during the crude oil shocks of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when annual United States consumption dropped by 12 percent.