Is the U.S. auto driving boom over? -

Is the U.S. auto driving boom over?

MADISON, Wis.— The driving boom is over in the UnitedStates.

True or false?

For anyone who grew up thinking the UnitedStates is the epicenter of the world's carculture, this is a possibility hard toswallow.

Moreover, Americans who live in thesuburbs, drive to work, and heavily rely oncars to haul kids around where they need togo, the notion that we are driving lesssimply feels false.

I was one of those skeptics.

So I've decided to take a hard look for thesource of this dubious generalization: TheNew York Times article, “The End of Car Culture.”

I tracked down data generated by the USDepartment of Transportation (DOT) andFederal Highway Administration, while goingthrough a few in-depth reports on the topicissued by the US Public Interest ResearchGroup (PIRG) over the last several months.

And here's what I've found. According to USdata generated over the last few decades:

  • We are driving less (fewer vehicle-milestraveled)
  • We own fewer vehicles
  • There has been a large drop in thepercentage of 16- to 39-year-olds gettinga license

Let's start with fewer vehicle-milestraveled (VMT).

According to the data generated by the DOTduring the second half of the 20th century,the total number of miles driven in Americasteadily increased by an average of 1.8percent annually between 1970 and 2004.

Then, the trend flipped.

Since the mid-2000s, miles driven inAmerica — both total and per capita — havefallen. From 2004 to 2012, the averagenumber of vehicle-miles driven per capitadecreased by 7.6 percent. And from 2007 to2012, the total miles fell by 3.1 percent.

Total and per Capita Vehicle-Miles Traveled, U.S.

Totaland per Capita Vehicle-Miles Traveled,U.S.

One obvious question is whether the declinein VMT might be the result of the recentrecession. A report by US PIRG, “Transportation inTransformation,” says not necessarilyso: “The trend toward reduced per-capita VMTbegan long before the recent recession.Per-capita vehicle travel peaked in 2004,while the recent recession did not beginuntil the fall of 2007.”

Further, driving has fallen among thosewith jobs, according to the report. Quotingthe National Household Travel Survey (basedon data from DOT and the Federal HighwayAdministration), the report said: “Whilerising unemployment during the recessionsurely contributed to declining driving, theVMT per employed worker fell from 12,900 to11,800 (8.3 percent), between 2001 and 2009.Meanwhile, the VMT per non-worker fell from3,600 to 3,500 (3.6 percent).”

To read more go to “Young people driving less.

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