The Great Shift Away From Driving Continues in Southern California
Southern Californians are driving less and riding transit more, according to a new study from US PIRG:
The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area saw similar changes since the mid-2000s. Residents drove 2.3% fewer miles in 2010 than they did in 2006, the study said, using the most recent data available. In total, the number of miles fell by about 2.9 billion miles.
The volume of workers who commuted by car in the same area fell by about 2% during roughly the same time frame. Other California areas, including Riverside-San Bernardino, San Diego and San Francisco, saw similar declines….
The average number of miles traveled on public transit in Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana increased by about 14% in the second half of the 2000′s, the study said. The number of trips rose by 1.1%.
You can bet that the number of trips would rise significantly more if more transit options were provided, including buses as well as rails. Los Angeles County is hard at work expanding its mass transit system, as is San Diego. Someday soon Orange County will join them, even if it’s just a streetcar in Anaheim to start.
But the point here is that further investments in automobile capacity are pointless, as there isn’t increasing pressure on the system from the public. No, the gains are all in transit and that is where regional and state transportation funding ought to be directed. In the 1950s California embarked on a major transportation infrastructure building program that emphasized automobile capacity. Here in the 2010s it is time to embark on a major transportation infrastructure building program that this time emphasizes transit capacity, with high speed rail being a part of it.
Sadly, that isn’t what we’re seeing just yet, at least not outside LA County. San Diego County and Caltrans are still planning to move ahead with a completely pointless $4 billion widening of Interstate 5. That $4 billion would go a long way toward making even more improvements to the rail and transit networks in the San Diego area. Some money is being spent on capacity upgrades on the LOSSAN corridor in this area, including numerous double tracking projects and that’s awesome, but more of that type of work is needed rather than freeway expansion.
Transit advocates in San Diego are leading the charge for a better solution. The completely awesome Cleveland National Forest Foundation, which has developed its own 50/10 plan (modeled on LA’s 30/10 plan), last week announced it was suing Caltrans to stop the I-5 project, charging that Caltrans has mishandled the environmental review process and that the project will cause massive carbon emissions that undermines the AB 32 goals. I’m glad to see them standing up to fight the widening project, and especially with the ultimate goal of promoting transit over freeway lanes.
As Californians continue to shift away from driving, it’s time that governments across the Golden State shifted their funding priorities as well.