More Evidence That America May Have Reached ‘Peak Car’  

Posted by Big Gav in

Greentech Media has an update on the peak car theory - More Evidence That America May Have Reached ‘Peak Car’.

Three years ago, I lived in rural New England and drove my vehicle to get to most places -- particularly in the winter. But like a lot of Millennials, I moved to Washington, D.C. after the recession into a booming local economy.

I quickly ditched my car for a number of reasons: easy access to public transportation, high auto insurance rates in D.C., and the general hassle of owning a car in a city. There's also the thrill of riding a bicycle through gridlocked traffic, a feeling that any urban bicyclist will describe with glee.

I'm certainly not alone. According to research from the Public Interest Research Group, young Americans between the ages of 16 and 34 are driving 23 percent less than they did in 2001. All Americans are driving less, but the decline is even steeper for Millennials.

In study after study, the trend is stark. But researchers are still trying to figure out whether the decline in driving is due to a post-recession hangover, or caused by structural long-term changes that mean "peak car" has arrived.

In his latest of a series of studies on the issue, Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute doesn't definitively conclude that America has reached its driving peak. But he adds yet more compelling data to the mix hinting at a long-term trend.

In two earlier studies from earlier this year, Sivak reported that light-duty vehicles per person, per licensed driver and per household had all peaked before the economic turmoil in 2008, suggesting that "other societal changes" like public transportation, urbanization and telecommuting were core drivers of the trend.

Sivak's most recent research adds fuel consumption to the mix. He found that fuel consumption rates per person, per household and per vehicle all peaked in 2004, well before the economy tanked. Sivak also noted that fuel consumption is dropping faster than miles driven, which shows that fuel efficiency standards are working.

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