A lively discussion in a recent post about highway taxes vs. highway spending boiled down to one question: “Who drives more: rural, suburban, or city residents?”
The data to answer this question is not easily accessible, but we can use available data to estimate it. We know from National Household Travel Survey (conducted by the Federal Highway Administration) results that about half of all vehicle trips are 4 miles or less in length, and three-quarters of those vehicle trips are 10 miles or less. Only 10% of vehicle trips are more than 20 miles in length.
With this in mind, we can use county-level VMT (vehicle miles traveled) data as a rough proxy:
This map shows 2013 VMT-per-capita by county, using 2013 VMT data from MnDOT and 2013 population estimates from the Minnesota State Demographer. The figures within each county are the value for that county. The lowest VMT-per-capita is in tiny Mahnomen County in northwestern Minnesota, while the highest is in Martin County (Fairmont area).
As you can see, the Twin Cities metropolitan area counties have low VMT-per-capita numbers compared to the rest of the state. Indeed, three of the bottom five counties are in the Twin Cities metro, and all seven core metro counties are in the bottom 11. Olmsted County (Rochester) and Blue Earth County (Mankato) also score relatively low. Meanwhile, all of the highest VMT-per-capita counties are Outstate. From this we can surmise that, on average, urban and suburban residents drive less, while exurban and rural residents drive more.
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