Sunday, January 5, 2014

We Should Be Measuring How Far We Drive in Light-Years

Do you know how many miles are driven every day in Oklahoma City and the surrounding jurisdictions?  Here’s a hint, all-combined people in our region could drive around the circumference of the Earth 1,480 times with the amount of driving that occurs in ONE day. We could travel to the moon AND back 77 times. And if that doesn't impress you, we can reach the sun in 2.5 days, and Pluto in 4 months! We drive so much per year in this country it may as well be measured in light years. Vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) is the unit for measuring how far we drive collectively.

Remember, this is just for the OKC area.
We could get there and back in a week!
These numbers are too big to display without scientific notation...
Every single day in the OCARTS (Oklahoma City and Regional Transportation Study) area drivers travel more than 36,800,000 miles (Source). With a population in this region (includes Canadian, Cleveland, Grady, Logan, McClain, and Oklahoma County) of about 1.22 million people, this comes out to an average daily VMT per capita of 30.19 miles per day.

But there are not that many drivers in the area. What about people who are too young to drive? Using American Fact Finder I subtracted the percentages of people younger than 15, which is about 21% of the people living in the area, so the per capita VMT jumps up to 38.11 miles per person per day. This comes out to 13,910 miles per year per driver in the region. This is closer to the real number of miles traveled per driver, but the per-capita figure takes into account everyone. Granted, the majority of the children ride in cars to places they have to go that their parents wouldn’t need to travel to otherwise, but I can’t help but feeling that the per-capita figure gives people too much credit.

The U.S. per-capita VMT amount is roughly 9,600 miles, but take out the 21% who aren't old enough to drive and that number jumps to over 11,700 miles per year per person. Our region is more than 18% above average in vehicle miles traveled, and it correlates with an increase in the amount of miles driven on interstates.

Great image put together by ACOG. You can really see the reliance upon interstates and major highways!
The commutes are too long, and people do not live close to the things they need or where they work. It needs to change, because with every year that passes, drivers in this region are pumping 5.7 MILLION tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, degrading our ecosystems, and degrading their own health for a misguided reach for convenience. You may not think that you can make a difference, but you also don’t make that much of an impact by yourself in the first place, but when you multiply individuals into the millions, big things happen. You can’t think of this thing in terms of an individual; you have to think of it like you’re a part of a community.

So, if you’re still looking to make a resolution this year, or set any goals; drive less. It’s simple. It’s better for you; it’s better for your family; it’s better for your neighbors; it’s better for your community; it’s better for your ecosystem; it’s better for your planet. 

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