Transportation Secretary cries over Americans driving fewer miles

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Washington DC – High fuel prices seem to be adversely affecting American driving habits, according to a new report by the Federal Highway Administration.  The report says Americans drove 30 billion fewer miles since last November.  This is approximately a 1% decline over the same time period in previous years, but this is significant because total mileage usually rises one to two percent a year.

For April 2008 alone, mileage declined 1.8% over the same time last year.  Tracked by region, the west – with its traditionally higher gas prices – declined the most with mileage falling by a whopping 2.8%.

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters says the lower miles driven have an adverse affect on the highway system because the government collects less tax on fuel.  Driving fewer miles, which should be a good thing for the freeways, actually is a bad thing because less miles mean less fuel, which in turn means less tax collected - clear as mud?  We thought so.  Currently the federal Highway Trust Fund receives 18.4 cents per gallon from gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon from diesel fuel.

“We’re burning less fuel as energy costs change driving patterns, steer people toward more fuel efficient vehicles and encourage more to use transit. Which is exactly why we need a more effective funding source than the gas tax,” Secretary Peters said.

Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray says the move towards greater fuel efficiency is great, but the highway system needs sustainable funding measures in place for the future.  Hmmm, sounds like another tax coming up to me.

Gasoline prices in the Los Angeles area currently average around $4.50 a gallon with the most expensive places cresting $5+ a gallon.