Reducing How Much We Drive Should be a National Transportation Goal

Americans should be driving less -- fewer trips over shorter distances.

Last month, Senators John D. Rockefeller and Frank Lautenberg introduced a bill that would establish performance-based goals for our surface transportation system. The bill would, according to Senator Lautenberg, “establish a national policy that improves safety, reduces congestion, creates jobs, and protects our environment.”

Among these goals is to reduce the amount Americans drive, or more specifically, to “reduce national per capita motor vehicle miles traveled on an annual basis.” Basically, Americans should be driving less—fewer trips over shorter distances. This has as much to do with the way we use our land as it does with transportation policy. Where we choose to live and work and get the groceries largely determines how much we drive. We are driving longer distances to work and to complete all the other little errands that populate our days.

However, Gabriel Roth argues in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that reducing the amount we drive should not be a policy goal of the federal government.

Reducing the total miles traveled—whether the length or number of trips—means people would have to reduce the activities they want and need to do. People would be “coerced,” in effect, to live in less desirable places or work in less desirable jobs; shop in fewer and closer stores; see their doctor less frequently; visit fewer family members and friends.

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