Aug 4, 2023 - Transit

Atlantans drive thousands more miles per year than people in other U.S. cities

Average annual miles traveled per household, by metro area
Data: Brookings; Note: Includes all biking, walking, transit and vehicle miles. Map: Alice Feng/Axios Visuals

The average Atlanta metro area household traveled nearly 36,000 miles in 2022, per a new study. That's higher than the national average of nearly 30,000.

  • But the data also shows that Atlantans living near "activity centers" — or neighborhoods with many community institutions, tourism destinations, consumption amenities and jobs — drive less.

Driving the news: The Brookings Institution study explores household auto, biking, mass transit and walking data for the 110 largest U.S. metro areas to measure how close people are to where they work, eat, play, shop and more.

  • Atlanta ranks sixth for overall miles traveled among the country's 110 largest metro areas.

Why it matters: "Helping people live closer to the centers of economic activity ... should reduce the distances people need to travel for many of their essential trips," the analysts wrote. It can also lower emissions, create safer streets and save money, they added.

  • "Shorter trip distances, in turn, make walking, bicycling, and transit more attractive and can improve quality of life."

Zoom in: Looking closely at metro Atlanta neighborhoods, it's not just those in the city who are driving less. In fact, those living near five "activity centers," namely Midtown, downtown, Decatur, Buckhead and Sandy Springs, travel more than 40% less, the researchers point out.

  • "Even in many of the fastest-growing, asset-rich suburban locations" like Kennesaw and Alpharetta, total miles traveled is far lower than suburban locations, they pointed out.

State of play: "Still, Atlanta's most proximate neighborhoods are home to only 16% of the metro area's population," researchers said.

  • So prioritizing growth in these "activity centers," they argue, would likely reduce the region's overall travel distances.

By the numbers: "For the average driver, living closer to multiple activity centers can save around $920 to $1,200 in annual transportation expenses, and reduce their carbon footprint by 2,455 to 3,020 pounds of carbon dioxide," researchers found.

The bottom line: The analysts argue for "building for proximity" to lower overall trip distances and make walking and biking more feasible.

Go deeper: The many benefits of "building for proximity"

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