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Changes in Transportation Costs and Spending

The 1994 Transportation Statistics Annual Report painted a picture of increasing costs and spending related to transportation, but not enough to change transportation as a share of the economy or impact consumer spending. In more recent times, the portion of gross domestic product (GDP) attributable to the final demand for transportation products and services (figure 13) and transportation as a share of personal consumption (figure 14) are both down slightly, primarily because spending on motor vehicles has declined. The portion of GDP created by forhire transportation services has remained stable (see figure 15).

The cost of for-hire transportation services as measured by the Producer Price Indices of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (see table 2) has risen steadily since the 1990s, except for declines during the recession in 2007 and 2008. The price of fuel is among the most volatile of cost elements (see figure 16).

The past decade has generally seen steady increases in transportation prices, especially those related to travel by private automobiles. However, in 2014 a major dynamic impacted passenger travel and transportation as a whole. That year gasoline and diesel prices dropped to levels not seen since before 2005 and again, briefly, during the trough of the last recession in January 2009. This recent drop in gasoline and fuel prices contributed to a decrease in the overall cost of transportation for consumers.

Government spending on transportation continues to be dominated by State and local governments. Total spending grew through 2003, declined and then rebounded to a high in 2009, and then declined and rebounded again following the recession (see figure 17). Following the peak at $362.3 billion in 2009, total expenditures dropped to $340.6 billion in 2011 and climbed to $347.6 billion in 2012 in chained 2009 dollars. Federal expenditures and grants are only one fourth of these totals.

Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017