Reports

Report | Ohio PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Moving Off the Road

After sixty years of almost constant increases in the annual number of miles Americans drive, since 2004 Americans have decreased their driving per-capita for eight years in a row. Driving miles per person are down especially sharply among Millennials, America’s largest generation that will increasingly dominate national transportation trends. But some skeptics have suggested that the apparent end of the Driving Boom might be just a temporary hiccup in the trend toward more driving for Americans. By the time Americans took notice of the decline in driving, the economy was in deep recession. Would economic growth bring back rapid increases in driving? Doubts about whether the Driving Boom has ended make it easier to postpone choices about transforming our transportation system or enacting reforms that disrupt well-established interest groups.

 

This report for the first time presents government data on state-by-state driving trends. It analyzes which states drive more miles per-person, which states have reduced their driving the most since the end of the national Driving Boom, and how state changes in driving behavior correspond to other changes such as growing unemployment or urbanization.

Forty-six states plus the District of Columbia witnessed a reduction in the average number of driving miles per person since the end of the national Driving Boom. North Dakota, Nevada, Louisiana and Alabama are the only states in the nation where driving miles per capita in 2011 were above their 2004 or 2005 peaks. Meanwhile, since 2005, double-digit percent reductions occurred in a diverse collection of states: Alaska, Delaware, Oregon, Georgia, Wyoming, South Carolina, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Florida.

The fifty states plus the District of Columbia offer a useful natural experiment to examine different factors behind America’s reduction in driving since 2004. Examining the commonalities and differences in driving trends among states can provide insight into the potential causes behind the downturn in driving and the direction of future trends.

 

This study finds that declining rates of driving do not correspond with how badly states suffered economically in recent years. On the contrary:

• Among the 23 states in which driving miles per person declined faster than the national average, only six saw unemployment increase faster than the nation as a whole.

• Among the 10 states with the largest declines in driving per person, only two rank among the ten with largest increases in unemployment.

• Among the 23 states where driving declined faster than the national average, only 11 saw faster-than-average declines in the employed share of their working-age population.

• Among the 10 states with the greatest reductions in the employed share of population, only two were also among the ten states with the largest reductions of driving (Georgia and the District of Columbia).

 

The evidence suggests that the nation’s per capita decline in driving cannot be dismissed as a temporary side effect of the recession. While certainly a contributing factor and an economic rebound could be expected to have some upward lift on driving, the recession does not appear to be the prime cause of the fall off in driving over the past eight years. Nor is it clear that future economic growth would lead to a resumption of the postwar Driving Boom. Policy makers can stop wondering whether American driving trends are changing. They should focus carefully on these trends, and start adapting policies to match them.

Report | Ohio PIRG | Budget

Apples to Twinkies 2013

At a time when America faces high obesity rates and tough federal budget choices, taxpayer dollars are funding the production of junk food ingredients. Since 1995, the government has spent $292.5 billion on agricultural subsidies, $19.2 billion of which have subsidized corn- and soy-derived junk food ingredients.

Report | Ohio PIRG | Health Care

Top Twenty Pay-for-Delay Drugs

Too often, consumers are forced to shoulder a heavy financial burden, or even go without needed medicine, due to the high cost of brand-name drugs. Our research indicates that one significant cause is the practice called “pay for delay,” which inflates the drug prices paid by tens of millions of Americans.

Report | Ohio PIRG | Higher Ed

Student Loan Debt in Ohio

If Congress fails to act, on July 1 the interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans will double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Last year, President Obama and Congress extended the low rate for one year.

Report | Ohio PIRG | Public Health

Prescription for Danger

The fungal meningitis outbreak caused by contaminated steroid injections that killed 55 people to date and sickened more than 740 is one of the worst public health disasters the nation has seen in recent history. The tainted injections came from a drug manufacturer doing business as a “compounding pharmacy,” a classification which allowed them to evade the system of safety rules, inspections, and oversight that keep our drug supply safe. According to an analysis of warning letters sent to other compounding pharmacies by the FDA from 2002 to 2012, there is a long history of similar violations that have in many cases led to unnecessary illness, injury, and even death.

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