New Report: “Easing Off the Gas” in the U.S. Northwest
An (almost) empty Seattle Viaduct. People in the Northwest have been using less gas -- and driving less -- over the past 10 years. Photo by <a href=

An (almost) empty Seattle Viaduct. People in the Northwest have been using less gas -- and driving less -- over the past 10 years. Photo by Slightlynorth.

A new report from the Sightline Institute shows that people in the Northwest states — Oregon, Washington and Idaho — are consuming less gasoline, riding more public transit and driving less than before, indicating a shift in the transportation patterns of the region.

Nationwide, Americans have been consuming less gas because of rising gas prices and the recession. But in the Northwest, the drop has been even greater. On average, Northwesterners consumed about 40 gallons less annually per person than the national average. In other words, gas use per capita in the Northwest is 10 percent less than the rest of the country.


Chart by Sightline Institute.

What are some of the reasons behind this trend?

Nationwide:

1. Transit ridership is up.

2. Fuel efficiency is up.

And particularly in the Northwest:

3. Vehicle travel is down. “The Northwest states’ miles driven are close to where they were in March 2004. Northwesterners traveled 643,000 fewer miles in the first quarter of 2009 than they did in the same period in 2007.”

4. Land use and transportation policies are changing. Growth management policies, as well as pricing that make it more expensive to drive and less expensive to use alternatives, like mass transit, have likely helped reduce vehicle miles traveled in the region.

“But the news isn’t all positive,” Sightline reports. “Northwesterners still consume nearly twice as much gasoline per day as the average for high-income countries.”

So compared to its American peers, the Northwest is conserving. But from a global climate change perspective, the region still needs to cut back on fuel use and encourage more energy-efficient forms of transportation.

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