What's At Stake: How Decreasing Driving Miles in Massachusetts Will Save Lives, Money, Injuries, and the Environment

November 23, 2015

Driving costs us big – in gas, vehicle maintenance, road repairs, increased pollution, and decreased physical activity. But just how much do these costs add up to? What’s at Stake, a new report from the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) and Transportation for Massachusetts, looks at just that.

Here’s the bottom line: if the Commonwealth promotes smart policies that reduce driving by just one percentage point below official projections, then we could save big – $20.1 billion to be exact. Read the full What's At Stake report and get all the facts.

According to official forecasts, driving per person is not expected to increase in the coming years. The bad news: total driving is. Due to changes in socioeconomic conditions, population increases, and general trip making behavior, by 2030, we’ll be driving one and a half billion miles more per year in Massachusetts than we do today. But, if we reduce driving by just one percentage point below official projections, then over the next 15 years, that small decrease in driving would add up to a total of 74.5 billion vehicle-miles saved.

The benefits?

  • Economic: Massachusetts residents would save $20.1 billion, including $7.7 billion saved at the pump, $6.7 billion saved from fewer car collisions, $3.8 billion saved on vehicle repair, and $1.9 billion saved on road repair. That’s enough to provide 180,455 households with groceries for 15 years, or cover daycare costs for more than 80,000 infants for the same amount of time.
  • Environmental: Transportation is responsible for 38 to 48 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in Massachusetts, depending on the measure. Reducing driving by one percentage point below official projections would save 23.3 million metric tons of global warming-causing carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere by 2030, and 2.6 billion gallons of gas from being consumed.
  • Wellness: Air pollution, vehicle crashes, and low levels of physical activity made worse by excess driving cause tens of thousands of premature deaths each year. For instance, air pollution linked to transportation related emissions accounts for more than 50,000 premature deaths across the U.S. each year.

Now we know what’s at stake, but how do get there? In order to save lives, money, and the environment, we need policies that:

  1. Encourage repair of existing roads over expansion of new roads;
  2. Give people more options other than driving by providing more and better public transit, biking, and walking infrastructure; and
  3. Make reducing driving a key part of how we decide what projects we should build.

Read the report here.


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