U.S. travel declines in February

Modest increases in vehicle travel on the East Coast in February and a stronger increase in the West were not enough to offset a drop in travel in the Midwest, according to the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration. This marked the first year-over-year decrease in travel in the United States in four years.

Drivers traveled an estimated 226.75 billion miles in February, down 0.1 percent from both the previous month and previous year. The last year-over-year decline in vehicle miles traveled occurred in February 2014, when overall travel in the nation fell by 0.9 percent.

Despite this modest decrease, other travel measurements were up. The seasonally adjusted travel total of 266.7 billion miles marked a 0.1 percent increase from the previous year. The moving 12-month travel total in February stood at 3.21 trillion miles, up 0.9 percent from 3.18 trillion miles in February 2017.

In the Northeast region—which includes the New England states, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania—travel was up 0.5 percent from the previous year. Drivers put an estimated 30.18 billion miles on their odometers in February.

Rhode Island had the strongest travel increase in the United States, with a 7.3 percent uptick in travel from February 2017. The state's estimated total of 489 million vehicle miles traveled included 374 million miles on urban arterial roads (a year-over-year increase of 7.5 percent) and 43 million miles on rural arterial roads (up 5.6 percent from the previous year).

Connecticut had a 3 percent increase in travel, with an estimated 2.16 billion vehicle miles traveled in February. This total included a 3.1 percent increase in urban arterial travel to 1.59 billion miles and a 0.7 percent increase in rural arterial travel to 104 million miles.

The Western region had the largest overall increase in travel, with the cumulative travel total in these 13 states rising 3.3 percent to 50.89 billion miles. The South Atlantic region—which includes eight states from Maryland to Florida as well as the District of Columbia—had a more modest increase of 0.5 percent and a travel total of 50.87 billion miles.

All 12 states of the North Central region, which stretches from Ohio to North Dakota, had a year-over-year drop in travel. Overall, travel in the region fell 3.1 percent to 49.12 billion miles.

A similar trend occurred in the South Gulf region, which experienced travel decreases in seven of its eight states. Travel in the region was down 1.5 percent to 45.69 billion miles.

After Rhode Island, the second largest single state increase in travel occurred in Maine. Travel in this state was up 4.9 percent to 1.02 billion miles. This was followed by California, with a 4.8 percent increase to 24.41 billion miles, and Washington, where travel was up 4.7 percent to 4.47 billion miles.

The largest decrease in travel occurred in Iowa, where travel was down 5.6 percent to 2.17 billion miles. This was followed by a 5 percent drop in Illinois travel to 7.9 billion miles and a 4.6 percent decline to 2.07 billion miles in Arkansas.

The FHWA's Traffic Volume Trends reports use data from thousands of continuous traffic counting locations across the U.S. These stations conduct hourly traffic counts and measure changes in traffic volume compared to the same month in the previous year. The report for February included data from 4,747 stations, including 16 in Connecticut and 49 in Rhode Island.

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