Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New studies -- short takes

Higher gasoline prices do translate into changed driving habits, according to a new study from the Congressional Budget Office.

Freeway motorists have adjusted to higher prices by making fewer trips and by driving more slowly. CBO analyzed data collected at a dozen metropolitan highway locations in California, along with data on gasoline prices in California, to identify changes in driving patterns. On weekdays in the study period, for every 50 cent increase in the price of gasoline, the number of freeway trips declined by about 0.7 percent in areas where rail transit is a nearby substitute for
driving; transit ridership on the corresponding rail systems increased by a commensurate amount.

Meanwhile, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission called for increasing gas taxes by 40 cents a gallon over five years. (This, of course, would be devastating to the poor, who continue not to share in the tax breaks given to the rich.)

Does the proposed increase mean the commission wants to raise gas prices to reduce car demand enough to eliminate the need for destructive freeway expansion projects? Let's hope so.

The national commission also calls for a “a cultural shift will need to take place across America to encourage our citizens to take transit or passenger rail when the option is given.”

One of the commission members was Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi, who has shown absolutely no interest in encouraging transit options. The ironies never cease.

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