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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizonans search for better transportation

A recent report shows that Americans are driving less, with young people pushing for better public transportation options.

The Arizona Public Interest Research Group report found that by 2011, the average Arizonan drove more than 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004, reversing a decades-long trend. At a national level, those between the ages of 16 and 34 drove 23 percent fewer miles in 2009 than the average young person did in 2001, while the annual number of miles traveled on public transit by those in this age group increased by 40 percent.

“It’s clear that America’s young people are decreasing the amount they drive and increasing their use of public transportation,” said Serena Unrein, public interest advocate for the group. “It would make sense that our policy makers would want to start investing in more public transportation and looking at other alternatives young people and all Americans are seeking.”

There is a host of reasons why Americans are driving less, including high gas prices, Unrein said. Other factors include changes in young peoples’ values and preferences and improvements in technology that support alternative transportation, she said.

“These factors make it seem that this trend will have an impact for years to come,” Unrein added. “If anyone says this is a trend that might be short lived, I would counter that and say that this trend appears to be long lasting.”

Because this trend could continue in the future, group representatives say policymakers need to pay attention to these numbers as they decide what legislation to propose regarding transportation, Unrein said.

Although Arizona Department of Transportation spokeswoman Laura Douglas would not comment on the report itself, she did speak about the need to increase transportation options.

“Moving ahead into our transportation future, we really need to take into account different ways of getting around,” Douglas said. “Our state is growing and it’s going to continue to grow, so we have to look at increased population and a multimodal approach when it comes to transportation options.”

The department is working on a two-year feasibility study to determine the benefits of a passenger rail between Phoenix and Tucson, Douglas said. It’s in its first year and began once a previous study by the department showed that Arizona cannot continue to rely exclusively on roadways to move people.

“There are talks about trying to get a light rail from Tucson to Phoenix,” said Blake Richards, a criminal justice senior and a volunteer with PIRG. “I think if we were able to fund that, it would be highly used and highly valuable to our community here in Tucson.”

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