Driving trends affecting AZ roads

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Driving trends are changing and they could have an affect on your roads.

The driving boom is over, according to a Phoenix-based consumer advocacy group.

"We've been seeing that this is a national trend in Arizona. Between 2007 and 2011, driving dropped by 5 percent," said Serena Unrein with Arizona Pirg.

Unrein said the slowdown in driving is likely to continue, partly because many baby boomers are retiring and millenials are using other forms of transportation.

"We really are seeing that more people are looking for good bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure, and that public transit ridership continues to increase," Unrein said.

"It's also a no-brainer when it comes to financials: gas prices are rising, students recognize that, students run a low budget, young people recognize that; young people run a very tight budget," University of Arizona graduate Storm Byrd said.

With fewer people driving, that means fewer people are buying gas. The only problem is gas taxes pay for the majority of transportation funds. That includes road repairs to public transportation.

"We really should be looking at putting our transportation money, where we know people are going to be using these investments for a number of years," Unrein said. "So certainly, maintaining the roads and bridges we already built, but also investing in robust public transportation."

Emily Yetman with the Living Street Alliance agrees. She says Tucson is on the right track, especially with the modern street car, but says the city still has a way to go.

"Having transportation choice is really going to help Tucson and the greater Tucson region improve their economic status and our competitiveness with other cities that are doing the same thing," Yetman said.

The non-profit, Arizona Pirg, plans on taking this report to elected public officials. They hope it'll get them to rethink their transportation policies and move toward the future.

Meanwhile, Pima County supervisors are looking for $268 million to improve roads. It would require action from lawmakers, including getting back $39 million in state-shared revenues taken during the state budget crisis.

Other possible solutions include shifting a one cent gas tax to road repair, or raising the gas tax by ten cents.

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