Has Increased Urbanism Initiated A Decline In American Driving?

Eric Jaffe discusses new charts released last week that purport to show the continued decline of vehicle-miles traveled in the United States, and wonders if increased urbanism can be credited as the cause.

New charts released by the State Smart Transportation Initiative, a sustainable transport program funded by the Department of Transportation, showing overall vehicle miles traveled (VMT) at its lowest level since 2003 and per capita VMT at its lowest level since 1998, lead Jaffe to ask if the United States has, in fact, reached "peak driving."

With the trend seemingly established, Jaffe investigates the possible causes, including gas prices and the embrace of sustainable land-use patterns. And, it's upon this latter explanation that he elaborates.

"A brief analysis by SSTI found a weak connection between VMT and gas prices, and a rather strong one between vehicle miles and urban density...With a rise in urban density comes an ease of accessibility. On its own that would lead to an increase in trip-making, but accessibility also makes the length of each trip shorter and more direct, and creates a favorable situation for the use of non-automobile travel modes."

According to Jaffe the connection between higher density and reduced VMT is supported by at least two other studies conducted by Australian researchers and the Brookings Institution.

Full Story: Is Urbanism Slowing the Rise of Car Travel?


Brand new! Urban Grid City Collection

Each city has its own unique story. Commemorate where you came from or where you want to go.
Grids and Guide Red book cover

Grids & Guides

A notebook for visual thinkers. Available in red and black.

Create Your Own Paper Block City

Urban Fold is an all-inclusive kit that allows anyone to build the city of their dreams with a few simple folds.
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $16.95 a month