November Driving 1.2% More Than in 2019


Americans drove 1.2 percent more miles in November of 2023 than in the same month in 2019, according to data released by the Federal Highway Administration yesterday. Rural driving was 6 percent greater than in 2019, while urban driving was 0.9 percent less. This may partially be due to a movement of people from urban to rural areas.

A few states are still seeing major shortfalls in driving. West Virginia is 31 percent below 2019; California is down 21 percent; and the District of Columbia remains 29 percent less than in 2019. Missouri and Washington are also below 2019 levels, but only by 5 to 6 percent.

Several more states are well above average. Arizona is up 24 percent; Delaware 20 percent; Louisiana 19 percent; Arkansas 18 percent; Alabama 15 percent; South Dakota 14 percent; Idaho, New Mexico, and Utah 13 percent; North Dakota and Rhode Island 11 percent; and Tennessee and Texas 10 percent.

Also yesterday, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported airline passenger-miles for October. These numbers are usually issued more than a month after other numbers and the airline trend shown in the above chart is based on TSA passenger counts. Passenger-miles are not only a better comparison with, say, Amtrak (which is in passenger-miles in the above chart) but the BTS has separated domestic flights from international flights. Although several Amtrak trains go to Canada, domestic air travel might also be a better comparison with Amtrak.

The new numbers show that Americans flew 6.7 percent more passenger-miles domestically in October of 2023 than the same month in 2019. International passenger-miles were 4.3 percent below 2019 numbers. Overall air passenger-miles in November were 1.0 percent more in 2023 than 2019.

Keep in mind that, although travel by both air and Amtrak have caught up with 2019 levels, airline domestic flights still carried more than 110 times as many passenger-miles as Amtrak. When international travel is counted, airlines carried more than 240 times as many passenger-miles as Amtrak.

This piece first appeared at The Antiplanner.

Randal O'Toole, the Antiplanner, is a policy analyst with nearly 50 years of experience reviewing transportation and land-use plans and the author of The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future.

Chart: Comparison of four transportation modes for 2020 - 2023.