Driving Down, Use of Public Transit Up in Arizona

August 24, 2015


PHOENIX, AZ — A new report calls for transportation planners in Arizona’s biggest cities to support the trend toward less car travel by spending more of the funding pie on popular alternatives such as public transit, bike and pedestrian routes.

The report, Driving Trends and Transportation Funding in the Southwest:  Budgets Can Support Further Reductions in Driving, analyzes public records and notes that, in the Phoenix metro area where 61% of Arizona’s population lives, transportation planners have lowered their most recent forecast for vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 23% or 17 million fewer vehicle miles traveled per day.  Planners for the Tucson area lowered their forecasted VMT by 14%, about 7.5 million fewer miles per day.

“There is a documented shift in driving habits not only in Arizona, but regionally and nationally,” said Mike Salisbury, author of the report and a senior transportation associate at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP).  “As a result, we recommend that transportation planners reallocate spending to mirror the trends because of the many benefits of reduced driving.”

Use of public transit in the Phoenix metro area increased by 32% and in Tucson 26% between 2006 and 2013.

Despite the shifts, the report said that transportation planners’ most recent plan to allocate 70% of transportation funds to roadways remains unchanged.  While the spending plan did increase the portion of the funding pie for public transit to 30% of the total, most of the increase came from cuts to bike and pedestrian projects, which ended up with less than 1% of the total funding pie.

Why are Arizonans driving less?

·      More people are using public transit.

·      Baby boomers are retiring and not driving as much anymore.

·      Millennials—the 18-34 age group—drive less than older generations.

·      Among all workers, there’s an increase in telecommuting.

·      Arizona data shows lower rates of vehicle ownership and fewer drivers’ licenses

The Report Lists Benefits of the Trend

·      When people are driving less, there’s less wear and tear on roads, and less demand for expensive new roads and expanded highways.

·      Also, air quality benefits from less driving

·      Finally, there’s a personal health benefit when people choose to bike or walk to work or take public transit instead of driving from one point to another.

·      There are community development benefits and increased investment around public transit corridors in Arizona.

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project is a public interest organization that advances energy efficiency in the Southwest.  SWEEP’s Transportation Program seeks to identify and promote the implementation of policies designed to achieve significant energy savings and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.



  • Mike Salisbury, Senior Transportation Associate, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project: (720) 628-5596 cell; msalisbury@swenergy.org
  • Will Toor, Transportation Program Director, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project:  (303) 447-0078 ext. 6; (303) 591-6669 cell; wtoor@swenergy.org