Vehicle Miles Traveled: Austinites Drive More Than Other Texans

This is one of four truths published by Farm&City in a report presented to the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board, February 9, 2020

We used two sources of TxDOT data to check whether it is true that the people of Austin drive more per capita than other Texans. Both methods show Austinites drive more than most other large metro areas in Texas. Among the ten largest MPOs, only the people of Beaumont and the Permian Basin – each home to less than 400,000 people – drive more on average than Austinites.

TxDOT publishes powerful sets of data every year that include estimates of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) for every county. The District and County Statistics (DISCOS) is published by the Financial Management Division. Anyone can download the spreadsheet.

Farm&City asked & received a compilation of these reports from 2006-2015 and has been downloading the reports since then, so we have 14 years of data. The Roadway Inventory is published annually by the Transportation Planning/Programming Division and also includes data on VMT, but for calendar years instead of fiscal years. For mapping enthusiasts, this publication also includes a crucial set of data available for GIS

75% of Texans live in the seven TxDOT districts shown in the top graph. Similarly, 75% live in the ten MPOs shown on the bottom graph.

Importantly, TxDOT changed the VMT methodology in 2015 based upon complaints brought by H-GAC. Before that time, Austin’s higher rate of VMT per capita compared to other metros was even more stark.

As to why these two different sources of TxDOT data give very different results for total VMT for each county, and yield different results for VMT per capita is beyond the scope of our work. However, for the purposes of this exercise, both methods show that the people of Austin drive more relative to the people of Houston, Dallas – Fort Worth, and San Antonio. Following safety, a primary goal of CAMPO should be reducing the amount the people of the Austin region are forced to drive.

There are four blog posts in this series:

The Myth of Austin Not Building Enough Roads Isn’t True
TXDOT: Austin Has Not Received Less Per Capita Than Other Large Metros
Vehicle Miles Traveled: Austinites Drive More Than Other Texans
Sprawl: Austin is the Most Sub-urban Large Metro in Texas