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Driving Continues to Decline in U.S.

Federal data released last week shows that for the eighth straight year, per capita vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) has declined in the United States.
February 28, 2013, 7am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Eric Sundquist discusses the new information contained in the Federal Highway Administration travel trends data released late last week. Per capita VMT dropped .4 percent in 2012, continuing a trend that began in 2004. "Per capita VMT peaked in 2004 and has declined each year since then for a total decline of 7.5 percent," notes Sundquist. "At 9,363, VMT per capita in 2012 reached its lowest level since 1996."

"A variety of factors have been cited for the decline, including retiring Baby Boomers; less enthusiasm for cars among Millennials; a move in many places toward more compact and mixed-use development; and demand-side policy efforts, including TDM, tolling and market-pricing of parking," he explains. "In addition, some trends that fueled VMT growth in the last century have eased: The transition toward women working outside the home is essentially complete, car-ownership has gone from rare to common, and people’s time budgets for car travel may have reached their maximum."

The continued decline suggests the trend in reduced driving is not an aberration. "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," he adds.

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Published on Monday, February 25, 2013 in State Smart Transportation Initiative
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