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Media Relations Contact:
U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C.
Brian Turmail

October 24, 2008

Travel Changes Demonstrate Need for New Way to Fund Transportation

New August Data Show Americans Drove 15 Billion Fewer Miles than a Year Ago, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters Announces

Video available:

DOT Secretary Mary Peters
inspects DART transit construction
October 24, 2008

(Opens in a new window)

Image: DOT Secretary Mary Peters speaking at Deep Ellum Station on October 24 with DART Board Chairman Randall Chrisman (left) and DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas
DOT Secretary Mary Peters speaking at Deep Ellum Station on October 24 with DART Board Chairman Randall Chrisman (left) and DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas


Image: DOT Secretary Mary Peters talking with DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas (left) and DART Board Chairman Randall Chrisman
DOT Secretary Mary Peters talking with DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas (left) and DART Board Chairman Randall Chrisman

Image: DOT Secretary Mary Peters at Deep Ellum Station with DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas (left) and DART Board Chairman Randall Chrisman
DOT Secretary Mary Peters at Deep Ellum Station with DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas (left) and DART Board Chairman Randall Chrisman

DALLAS - New federal data show Americans are continuing a ten-month long decline in driving habits, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters announced today. The decline is putting new pressure on the way road, bridge and transit projects are funded at a time of record growth in transit ridership, showing the need for a new approach for funding transportation construction, she added "We pay for transit the same way we pay for road and bridge projects - with federal gas taxes," said Secretary Peters who made the announcement during a visit to a light rail station under construction in Dallas. "Relying on the gas tax is like relying on cardboard to keep the rain out - the longer you use it the less it works."

In August 2008, Americans drove 15 billion fewer miles, or 5.6 percent less, than they did in August 2007, Secretary Peters said. She added that over the past ten months, Americans have driven 78 billion fewer miles than they did in the same ten months the previous year. Texans alone drove 1.3 million fewer miles, the Secretary added.

Transit ridership, meanwhile, saw an increase of 6.2 percent this summer compared to last, said Secretary Peters. In Texas, the DART rail system saw an increase of 15 percent this summer, one of the largest in its 12-year history, she noted.

She said that since 2001, the Department has invested over 8 billion dollars to finance over 280 miles worth of new transit lines, which, taken together would be 25 percent longer than the New York City subway system. She warned that future projects, however, could be at risk if we continue to rely on gas taxes to fund transit construction.

She said a plan to significantly reform federal transportation policy the Administration unveiled earlier this year would address that challenge by making it easier for states to attract new sources of funding for transportation projects. "With this new approach to funding transportation projects, we can ensure that Big D has Grade-A transit service for years to come."

To review the FHWA's "Traffic Volume Trends" reports for August 2008, visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/tvtw/tvtpage.htm. (Link opens in a new window)

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