Do Houstonians really drive more vs. other cities?
Demographia has published a short white paper
debunking the myth that Houstonians drive more than people in other cities based on flawed 2006 FHWA stats. Those stats show we drive 36 vehicle miles per capita per day, the most in the nation among major cities (table 1, page 3
In fact, this data is incorrect. The FHWA 2006 data indicates that the Houston urban area has a population of 2,801,000. According to the United States Bureau of the Census, the population of the Houston urban area was 4,353,000 in 2006. It is true that the FHWA and Census geographical definitions vary, however, the land area of the FHWA urban area (1,476 square miles) is greater than the land area of the Census urban area (1,296 square miles). It is statistically impossible for a Houston urban area with a larger land area to have less population than a Houston urban area with a smaller land area.
Actually Houston’s driving is about average: If the urban area population is corrected to agree with the Bureau of the Census data, per capita driving in the Houston area is slightly below the national average for large urban areas. Houston would rank 19th out of 38 urban areas, with daily per capita driving of 23.2 miles, compared to the national average of 23.9 miles. Houston’s daily driving is only slightly more than urban areas with large rail systems, such as Boston (22.9), Washington (22.3) and San Francisco (22.0) (Table 2 and Slide 1).
They go on to point out that TXDoT data shows Houstonians drive meaningfully less (15+%) than the other big Texas cities Austin, San Antonio, and DFW
- even with their larger rail network - then further theorize:
...Houston’s more market oriented land use system would provide a better transportation match between homes and destinations. Houston’s driving data is consistent with this interpretation. Without zoning in the city and the unincorporated suburban areas, Houston does not have the planning barriers that so often lengthen travel times from homes to work and other destinations.
Labels: density, land-use regulation, mobility strategies, sprawl, zoning