Commuters in the Baltimore region took slightly fewer trips on public transit in recent years but traveled farther on the trips they took, according to a report released Wednesday by the Maryland PIRG Foundation.
A total of 96.9 million trips were taken in the Baltimore region on public transit in 2010, down 0.5 percent from 97.4 million in 2005, the study found.
But the number of miles traveled via public transit per passenger in the Baltimore area increased by 17.9percent, to 514million miles in 2010 from 436 million miles in 2005, according to the study.
Meanwhile, the average number of miles per capita driven on the state's highways decreased by 1.8 percent between 2006 and 2011, even though nearly 85 percent of workers in the Baltimore area commuted by vehicle, the study found.
Joanna Guy, a program associate at Maryland PIRG, said the study's findings reflect an evolution in the way Maryland residents are choosing to travel and commute to work that should motivate politicians in Annapolis to support investments in public transit.
“Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars continuing to enlarge our grandfathers' interstate highway system, we should be investing in the kinds of transportation options that the public increasingly favors,” Guy said.
The study, which also shows increases in bicycling and in employees working from home, comes on the heels of other reports from the consumer advocacy group showing a broader decline in driving among younger people nationwide.
Across the country, Americans ages 16 to 34 reduced their driving miles by an average of 23 percent between 2001 and 2009, the study found.
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Baltimore-area residents who commuted via bicycle increased, albeit by less than a percentage point, as did the number of employees who work from home, the study found.
While the number of Baltimore-area households without a vehicle decreased by 0.3 percent between 2006 and 2011, the number of households with two or more vehicles also declined, by 0.9 percent.
Of the 100 most populous urbanized areas in the country, the proportion of workers driving to work alone or in carpools declined in 99 cities over the past decade, while biking was up in 85 cities and telecommuting was up in all 100 cities, the study found.
The increase in public transit mileage per capita in the Baltimore region was larger than that seen in about two-thirds of the top 100 metropolitan regions, the study found. Its decrease in per capita vehicle mileage put it in the middle of the pack.
The study noted that the cities with the largest declines in driving were those hit least by the recession, indicating that the changes are not a result of unemployment or poverty.
Major state investments recently have been made to build an east-to-west Red Line in Baltimore's Metro system and a Purple Line in the state's suburbs outside Washington and connected to that city's Metro system.
“Clearly the MTA's Bus Network Improvement Project is an effort we are undertaking to provide the best-quality public transit service,” MTA Administrator and CEO Robert Smith said. “We're conducting this study to ensure that our services are in line with the public's needs.”
The study began in September, Smith said, and data should be available in April.
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