The road not taken


Gas prices are being blamed for the fact that Americans logged 12.2B miles driven less during the month of June 2008 than during the same month a year earlier. Going back to November 2007, total driving is down 53.2B miles. For comparison purposes, the Federal Highway Administration says total back in the 70s, when gas shortages first became a reality, total driving was down 49.3B miles, not for an eight month period but for the entire decade. Much of the decrease can be explained as a decision to vacation closer to home. But according to the Associated Press, polling indicates that 40% of Americans have pursued commuting options, including public transportation, walking and bicycling.

RBR/TVBR observation: A lot of people are also choosing to telecommute if the option is possible. The decrease in driving in June is obviously a problem for resort areas, although many will replace distant customers forgoing a lengthy road trip with those who live closer. A general slump in vacation travel would have an effect on billboard and other forms of outdoor advertising, and a decrease in income would affect all media that benefit from resort-related advertising. A precipitous drop in the number of commuters, however, would hit radio right where it lives. High gas prices are just one more in the series of negative events that have plagued the industry since the tech bubble burst at the end of the Clinton administration.