Per capita vehicle-miles traveled in the United States dropped by 0.4 percent in 2012, according to the FHWA’s travel trends data released Friday. As previously noted, fuel prices seem to have little relationship with VMT, and the trend toward lower levels of driving has persisted through economic prosperity, recession and recovery. The numbers suggest that, with a stable total VMT, we will still rely on highways for a long time. However, capacity projects based on increasing VMT may be good places for cash-strapped DOTs to look for savings.
Business Insider is the latest non-technical publication to highlight the trend toward flat overall VMT and declining per capita VMT. Three years ago, Nate Silver, now famous for election prognostication, also wrote a piece on declining VMT trends for Esquire. While much of this information is not news to transportation insiders, SSTI is asking for your suggestions about how agencies are addressing this new reality.
Nationwide, the decline in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is well documented, as is the decline in automobile ownership. Discussion of the causes remains a topic of debate. Regardless of cause, this new transportation reality is already changing the way DOTs do business. Most immediately, reduced VMT has resulted in lower fuel tax revenues. But almost as urgently, reduced VMT suggests that transportation agencies review plans and models that assume steadily growing automobile travel demand.
There has been a substantial decrease in the percentage of young people who possess a driver’s license. The ubiquity of social media may be a cause of this decline in VMT. Young people are also showing a preference for urban living and its better access to transit, walking, and biking. Many young people simply may be unable to afford the high cost of owning and maintaining a car. This decline has led to car companies overhauling their marketing and design strategies in an attempt to win back market share among youth.
In ‘Peak Car Use’: Understanding the Demise of Automobile Dependence, published last month in World Transport Policy and Practice, Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy, of the Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute in Australia, summarize …