Arizonans are driving less, and relying more on public transportation, according to a report from the Arizona Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.
The shift is causing the Arizona PIRG Education Fund to recommend that public officials shift funding away from more highway projects, and more toward other transportation options."
-Several Highway Changes in 2014
"We recommend that transportation officials and elected leaders look at the data today, and not outdated assumptions, to make sure that any highway projects are absolutely necessary," Arizona PIRG Education Fund executive director Diane Brown tells New Times.
The nonprofit organization's report, Bikes, Trains and Less Driving, says that there was an annual decline of 10.5 percent miles traveled per capita in Arizona.
The number of registered vehicles in Arizona dropped from 2007 to 2012, and in Phoenix, the number of households with two or more cars decreased, while the share of households with no car increased.
This all happened with an increasing population, and the report offers evidence that these trends can't be explained by the economic recession, like more Arizonans working from home instead of commuting, Arizona having a slightly older population, a double-digit share of the population having a disability, and the tendency of the Millennial generation to be more likely to use public transportation.
Meanwhile, the local transit agencies are experiencing record ridership. From the report:
In the Phoenix metro area, the light rail opened in late 2008 and is already experiencing ridership numbers that weren't projected to be reached until the year 2020. In 2013, the Valley Metro transit system experienced a record high annual ridership, and between 2007-2013, boardings on Valley Metro transit service jumped from 60 million to more than 75 million - an increase of 25 percent. The Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority recently saw its highest monthly ridership in October 2013. And in Yuma, ridership on Yuma County Area Transit has tripled since 2011.
The report suggests that public officials re-allocate their focus and funding, away from building new highways and toward more transportation options.
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Specifically, the organization cites the proposed Phoenix-to-Tucson rail line, urban-area transit systems, and bicycling and walking infrastructure.
"The time has come for the State of Arizona and its municipalities to shift their transportation priorities away from investments in expensive, unnecessary new highways, and toward the maintenance and repair of our existing infrastructure and the development of new transportation choices for Arizonans," the report states.
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