Urban Highway Data

Last November, the Antiplanner noted that the Federal Highway Administration had posted many of the tables for the 2016 Highway Statistics. However, two tables that had not then been posted dealt with highways and driving by urban area. Table HM71 shows miles and daily vehicles miles driven by type of road. Table HM72 shows miles of roads, freeways, and freeway lane miles as well as other characteristics such as land area and population density for each urban area.

When I downloaded the data, the first thing I noted was that the numbers for Los Angeles are wrong. The tables say that Los Angeles, an urban area of 12.5 million people, has just 813 miles of roads, 8 of them being freeways. Alphabetizing the list revealed that most of the data (other than population and land area) for urban areas from Lee’s Summit to Los Lunas had been pushed up one urban area. So I moved them all down one urban area, and took the data for Los Lunas and put them in the row for Lee’s Summit. I’m pretty certain this is right for all of the areas except Lee’s Summit; the 2015 spreadsheet for that area was all zeros.

To do this, I had to rearrange the spreadsheets. For some reason, the Federal Highway Administration breaks up the table into nine different worksheets, with about 70 urban areas per sheet. I find this annoying because it makes it difficult to find and compare many of the smaller urban areas.

So I put all of the data on one worksheet for each table and was then able to rearrange the numbers from Lee’s Summit to Los Lunas. You can download my revised tables HM71 and HM72. If I ever find out that the Los Lunas row should go somewhere other than Lee’s Summit, I’ll post an update.

I haven’t analyzed the data in detail, but I noticed that the population numbers haven’t changed from 2015, which means the Federal Highway Administration is using data from the 2010 census instead of the Census Bureau’s population estimates, which are updated each year. This is too bad because it reduces the precision of comparisons of per capita driving with density and similar factors.

I also notice that, in many urban areas, road miles have been slightly reduced. Los Angeles total road miles went from 25,211 in 2015 to 24,959 in 2016, while freeway miles went from 657 to 642. Although total miles for all urban areas increased, that’s partly because the number of urban areas grew from 486 to 497; many areas saw decreases in road miles. Was this due to more precise measurements, changes in urban area definitions, or some other factor?

Total driving in all urban areas grew by 2.6 percent. I’ll have to take a closer look soon to see if per capita driving changed in some urban areas more than others.

For comparison with 2016 data, you can download the 2015 HM71 and HM72 from the Federal Highway Administration’s web site, or download my tables HM71 and HM72, which put all the urban areas on one worksheet.


One thought on “Urban Highway Data

  1. LazyReader

    We can debate the argument of urban taxpayers paying the bill for exurban and rural roads or unfair tax distribution. But roads serve their purpose even if you’re not on it. Before the Highwayman knocks in with his infinite wisdom. “You teahadis’ support socialism for roads” and “Sidewalks don’t make money”
    the truth is without a comprehensive road system, cities would not survive. Roads are like a spider web, there’s radials and sides but they connect everything. Roads are like a spider web, there’s radials and sides but they connect everything.
    New York and Los Angeles the “Idea Factories” that supposedly drive our economy, couldn’t function without a road system leading out to the exurbs. If the roads to the exurbs failed, it’d be tragic, but we’d get on with our lives……If Ice Road truckers show taught us anything…….tough men can move anything on dirt, mud and ice but even they need roads. But if it completely collapsed, without a exurban road system , New York and Los Angeles would wither off the vine and die in a matter of days with resupply of food, parts, fuel, it’s commuting work force. The road is more important than the vehicle that runs on it. Humanity has built roads/pathways since 10,000 BC, until we invent hover cars like Batman Beyond or Blade Runner they’ll still just as important.

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