Earlier this year, Washington state and the rest of the country began to see rapid fuel price increases. No ... actually, it was March of last year that prices spiked. Wait! Wasn't it in September 2005, on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, that people considered hording gasoline?
Basically, gas costs more than it ever has. You know it, and I know it. So, it is no surprise that transit organizations throughout Washington are reporting strong growth in ridership. The question for WSDOT is how the fuel prices are affecting travel behavior on our state highways.
A quick look at some WSDOT data from the central Puget Sound region shows that motorists there seem to be driving a little less.
A sampling of traffic counts at several locations in the central Puget Sound region show that the average daily traffic was flat or slightly down in March 2008, compared to March 2007. But before we start to envision empty highways, remember that population is increasing. And, even with year-to-year traffic levels holding steady, the region traffic has still increased from 4 to 11 percent since 2003.
We have posted information on our web site, www.wsdot.wa.gov/finance/fuelpriceimpacts. We anticipate updating that page periodically as more data from the most recent few months becomes available.