#1: We’re driving less. During any recession, people tend to economize by driving less, and the Great Recession was no exception. But even a slight improvement in the economy since 2009 hasn’t resulted in greater use of the car, unlike in other recessions up to the mid 1990s. Less driving means less gas consumption means less gas tax revenue. What it doesn’t mean is less wear and tear because, increasingly, we’re using public transit and alternatives to gas-powered vehicles.
#2. Like Dylan, we’re going electric. Sure, the technology is still developing and it’s been talked about for a long, long time but it seems the disruptive change we’ve been waiting for in the auto industry is finally here and California is leading the way. A recent survey of transportation trends in Palo Alto revealed that one fifth of all households had switched to alternative fuel vehicles.
#3: Our kids (and grandkids) won’t buy as many cars. Of course, kids will buy cars, but the pressure to buy isn’t as great for a demographic that is increasingly urban (vs. suburban), comfortable with public transit and eco-friendly. Factor in things like cost and upkeep, and gas-consumption cars will be less attractive propositions for future generations. Plus, you can’t text and drive.
#4: We’re being encouraged to walk and bike more. The Palo Alto study also revealed that 93 percent of households reported owning at least one bicycle, while 53 percent owned four or more bicycles. Other national studies show more of us are commuting by bike.
#5. Rising fuel economy = lower consumption. Whether you agree with it or not, we’re legislating away future gas sales by requiring more efficient gas powered vehicles. This year’s cars are expected to average 24 mpg, an increase from 2012’s 23.6 mpg. So, even if we do buy more gas powered cars in the future (we won’t) each car will use far less gas. The trend is clear and is one of the biggest reasons we need an alternative to the gas tax for funding transportation infrastructure.