Today, with the exception of a handful of major metropolitan areas, driving has achieved near-total dominance. The U.S. surface transportation system has 1.3 million lane miles of interstate highways and arterial roadways and 7.4 million lane miles of collector streets and local roads.9 In 2017, the most recent year for which data are available, the number of registered vehicles climbed to 264 million, or roughly 1.2 residents for every vehicle.10 Americans drive more than 3.2 trillion miles each year,11 and driving alone accounts for 76 percent of all commuting trips.12
Over time, highway construction and automobility have established a powerful political economy, making alternative approaches to mobility and development difficult to implement. This issue brief discusses the harms and costs—including social, environmental, and economic—that are associated with this trend. It then explains how a so-called all-of-the-above strategy exacerbates or fails to mitigate these costs, using an overpass expansion project in Austin, Texas, as a case study to illustrate this approach’s ineffectiveness.