There were plenty of stories in the news late last year, which indicated Americans are driving less, despite the fact that fuel prices have fallen off a cliff. “We’re driving less even as gasoline prices drop” in USA Today described a corresponding jump in transit use:
“While driving declined, subways, buses, commuter rail and light-rail systems have reported record increases in ridership. Amtrak, the nation’s intercity passenger railroad, said it carried the highest number of passengers and brought in the most revenue in fiscal 2008 in its 37-year history.”
The cause of the driving decline, it was widely agreed, was the struggling economy. Yet that wasn’t the complete story, the USA Today story pointed out:
“I think when we probe these numbers we’ll find that a lot of people have figured out how to telework or how to go into the office fewer days. And having experienced that and made that work, I think they’ll continue to save the money and the time and effort and reduce some of those trips.”
While the biggest decreases in driving have been seen in Western states, Georgia also saw declines and it’s against this backdrop, yesterday, that Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Gena Evans was sacked. According to a Savannah Morning News story GDOT Board Chairman Bill Kuhlke said Evans was fired because she wasn’t cranking out new roads quickly enough.
“Kuhlke said the attitude of the board was that Gena Evans had not done enough to get the agency building roads fast enough. ‘The attitude of the board is: We’re not moving as fast as we think we can, and we needed to make a change to start getting projects out the door,’ he said.”
It’s worth noting that when Evans took the helm of the agency, the staff she inherited was unable to tell her exactly how many projects it had on the books. By April of last year it became clear that GDOT had promised $1 billion more in projects than it could hope to deliver.
There are, of course, opinions about why Evans was dismissed that diverge from Kuhlke’s explanation.