The American decline in driving actually began way earlier than you think
I mentioned last week that car travel in America appears to have peaked backed in 2004. Since then, “vehicle miles traveled” per person in the U.S. have been falling or flat-lining, prompting a fascinating debate over whether we’re witnessing some fundamental shift in the American relationship to the car, or some economic blip instead.
Timothy J. Garceau, a Ph.D. candidate in geography at the University of Connecticut, and professors Carol Atkinson-Palombo and Norman Garrick offer a different way to think about the answer. …
Their results further challenge the argument that Americans have merely been driving less of late because of the bad economy: Washington state experienced “peak car travel” all the way back in 1992, and Nevada, Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon, Rhode Island and Virginia all did before the new millennium. By this measure, peak car happened in D.C. in 1996.
“The longevity of this phenomenon at the state level,” the researchers write, “provides evidence that peak car travel in the U.S. is a more permanent phenomenon than previously thought.”
By 2011, the last year for which they gathered data, 48 of 50 states had peaked in miles traveled per capita. The two outliers: Alabama and North Dakota, where an energy boom has made the state a national exception on many fronts.
Here are the earliest states to experience peak car, starting with Washington in 1992:
An obvious question: Where are the British Columbia data? And given the implications (Yes, Massey Bridge, I’m thinking of you), we had better find out.