Well, here we are again going into the Labor Day weekend, the traditional signal that summer is over. One way you can tell summer is over is that traffic picks up. During the summer, kids are out of school, and people go on vacation. The result – traffic is down and you have an easier commute on most days.
Well, a new report just came out that says you are having an easier commute on most days because we are driving less all the time – not just in the summer! So far, we have driven 15.5 billion fewer miles in the first half of this year, according to that newly released report.
As a country, we drove 1.453 trillion miles through June 30 – down 1.1 percent over the first half of 2010. The last time Americans drove less in the first half of the year was in 2004, when we drove 1.451 trillion miles. June is the fourth straight month of traffic decline, with the number of miles traveled falling by 1.4 percent.
Travel in Michigan decreased more than the national average. Travel was down 1.6 percent in June to 8.6 billion miles. In May, travel on Michigan roadways fell 2.2 percent to 8.2 billion miles, according to preliminary state figures.
Why? The price of gas is a major reason. Gas prices are much higher today than in 2010. The national average price of self-serve regular gasoline as of mid-August is approximately 85 cents more than last year – that’s a 31 percent increase compared to the average for August 2010. Gas prices in Michigan are even higher than national averages – $3.71 a gallon, $1.02 more than last year.
Care to take a guess as to how much less money this translates to in order to improve our road and transit systems? Well, let’s do a little back-of-the-envelope math and see what we come up with. If we have driven 15.5 billion fewer miles this year and let’s say we get an average of 25 miles per gallon in our car; that means we have used 750,000,000 fewer gallons of gas – a great thing, right? Now the federal gas tax is $0.184 per gallon. This means that we have paid $142,600,000 less in federal gas tax so far this year than last year. Feel good about that? Next time you are driving and complaining about the rough ride, or lose a hub cap, or are stuck in traffic, remember you are paying less and also remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for.” We are.