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Published on December 17th, 2008 | by Nick Chambers

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Report: America’s Love Affair With Cars is Ending


According to a just-released report from the well-respected Brookings Institution, the US is experiencing its longest and quickest decline in the amount of driving since World War Two — a decline which the report’s authors claim marks a permanent shift away from the automobile and towards other forms of transportation.

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The report, The Road… Less Traveled: An Analysis of Vehicle Miles Traveled Trends in the U.S., points out that the beginning of the current decline in driving predated the high gas prices of last summer and, as gas prices have come back down over the last few months, drivers are not going back to their cars (click the graph below for an expanded view of these statistics).

As Robert Puentes, co-author of the report says, “With important conversations underway on infrastructure spending as economic stimulus, it’s critical for the new Congress and administration to recognize the long-term implications of these travel trends and to use this as an occasion to put forth a new vision that reflects new realities and is not just more of the same.”

I’m excited that we finally seem to have realized we need to fix and expand our embarrassingly decrepit infrastructure here in the US, but I get worried when it seems like the majority of what we’re going to do is patch up existing roads and build new ones.

What if we did that and then 20 years from now people were driving half as much as they are even today? We would have wasted a ton of resources on the wrong thing.

In trying to tease out the reasons why the decline has been so steep and persistent even without the recent gas price pressure, the authors identify several:

  • Market saturation of vehicle ownership
  • A plateau in the number of women entering the workforce
  • A possible ceiling in the amount of driving any one individual can tolerate
  • Increased ridership on mass transit
  • The development of commercial centers closer to home
  • Rising unemployment

One result of such a precipituous drop in driving in the US is that revenues to repair and expand our transportation infrastructure have dried up. Most of those types of projects are funded from the various federal and state gas taxes, and with fewer drivers on the road driving less miles, those funds are at all-time lows.

According to Adie Tomer, the other report co-author, “As gas tax receipts plummet, we will have to get smarter about how we spend our transportation dollars. We cannot afford to build more roads that people simply will not use. We run the very real risk of severely misallocating scarce resources.”

I, for one, would gladly give up my daily car commute for a high speed train ride where I can surf the internet and listen to music. Who’s with me?

Image Credits: Road from Nicholas_T‘s Flickr photostream under a Creative Commons License. Graph from report referred to in this post.

Source: Green Car Congress


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About the Author

Not your traditional car guy.



  • D Palmer

    Sorry, I don’t buy the author’s conclusion.

    I am willing to believe that miles driven will stay lower than in 2007 or at least not climb back to previous levels. But a 50% decline over the next 20 years? Dream on.

    Our public transportation system sucks (and I say this as one who takes PT to work every day and used Amtrak for a trip from Chicago to NYC in 2007) and there just isn’t a practical way for most people to get to and from work and shopping except via car.

    The typical new driver today has always been chauffered by a parent wherever they needed to go. Little Johnny and Jane fully expect to get a license whent they turn 16 and have access to a car.

    The decline in miles was simply a short term decline in discretionary driving. If the 2008 spike in gas prices proves to be just that, a one time spike, people will go right back to using their cars to retreive the mail from the box at the end of the driveway.

    Any long term change in driving habits will have to come from changing the attitude of today’s tweens so that by the time they are driving they are not thinking car first.

  • D Palmer

    Sorry, I don’t buy the author’s conclusion.

    I am willing to believe that miles driven will stay lower than in 2007 or at least not climb back to previous levels. But a 50% decline over the next 20 years? Dream on.

    Our public transportation system sucks (and I say this as one who takes PT to work every day and used Amtrak for a trip from Chicago to NYC in 2007) and there just isn’t a practical way for most people to get to and from work and shopping except via car.

    The typical new driver today has always been chauffered by a parent wherever they needed to go. Little Johnny and Jane fully expect to get a license whent they turn 16 and have access to a car.

    The decline in miles was simply a short term decline in discretionary driving. If the 2008 spike in gas prices proves to be just that, a one time spike, people will go right back to using their cars to retreive the mail from the box at the end of the driveway.

    Any long term change in driving habits will have to come from changing the attitude of today’s tweens so that by the time they are driving they are not thinking car first.

  • D Palmer

    Sorry, I don’t buy the author’s conclusion.

    I am willing to believe that miles driven will stay lower than in 2007 or at least not climb back to previous levels. But a 50% decline over the next 20 years? Dream on.

    Our public transportation system sucks (and I say this as one who takes PT to work every day and used Amtrak for a trip from Chicago to NYC in 2007) and there just isn’t a practical way for most people to get to and from work and shopping except via car.

    The typical new driver today has always been chauffered by a parent wherever they needed to go. Little Johnny and Jane fully expect to get a license whent they turn 16 and have access to a car.

    The decline in miles was simply a short term decline in discretionary driving. If the 2008 spike in gas prices proves to be just that, a one time spike, people will go right back to using their cars to retreive the mail from the box at the end of the driveway.

    Any long term change in driving habits will have to come from changing the attitude of today’s tweens so that by the time they are driving they are not thinking car first.

  • Nick Chambers

    D Palmer,

    1 – I said “What if we did that and then 20 years from now people were driving half as much as they are even today?”… as in “hypothetically.” “What if” implies “hypothetically.” Nobody is saying that’s what going to happen, I was asking “what if,” and posed potentially the worst case scenario.

    2 – Amtrak had the highest ridership ever over the last year. While I agree that our mass transit system sucks, that’s not the point, the point is that we should make it better cause there’s clearly a desire.

    3 – Did you even read the whole post? The reasons given for the decline have very little to do with gas prices and much more to do with trends such as market saturation of vehicle ownership, and no more women entering the workforce (that has plateaued). If you think about it, these two things alone make great sense and are undeniable.

    The recent gas price spike was just enough to send what had already been a stagnation of driving growth in this country over the last 5 years down a precipitous drop.

  • Mark

    “Love Affair Ending” seems like a sensationalized conclusion to a 5% decline. What facts support a structural change, and not just the normal reaction to higher prices and economic slowdown? The chart is the only fact presented, and it shows the expected inverse relationship between price and volume.

    Personally, I hate driving because of the crowding in urban areas. I would like nothing more than to see major changes in infrastructure and consumer behavior. However, until this nation spends $10s of trillions on light rail over a period of 40 years, there can only be minimal change.

    As a cynic, I suspect the Bookings Institution may be seeding articles like this to sabotage efforts to upgrade infrastructure. Much like the auto industry did decades ago to get rid of mass transit that they considered competition. I am not criticizing Mr. Chambers, who is just reporting the news. Deception is the most potent weapon and we must at least be wary of the possibilities.

  • Mark

    “Love Affair Ending” seems like a sensationalized conclusion to a 5% decline. What facts support a structural change, and not just the normal reaction to higher prices and economic slowdown? The chart is the only fact presented, and it shows the expected inverse relationship between price and volume.

    Personally, I hate driving because of the crowding in urban areas. I would like nothing more than to see major changes in infrastructure and consumer behavior. However, until this nation spends $10s of trillions on light rail over a period of 40 years, there can only be minimal change.

    As a cynic, I suspect the Bookings Institution may be seeding articles like this to sabotage efforts to upgrade infrastructure. Much like the auto industry did decades ago to get rid of mass transit that they considered competition. I am not criticizing Mr. Chambers, who is just reporting the news. Deception is the most potent weapon and we must at least be wary of the possibilities.

  • Nick Chambers

    My god Mark, why the heck do you have to come out swinging? The only two comments I’ve ever seen you post to this website and you’re coming off as a jerk. For context, see his other comment here:

    http://gas2.org/2008/12/17/little-known-automaker-byd-introduces-plug-in-hybrid-vehicle/#comment-41225

    This is a blog, I summarized the salient points of the entire paper which is 40-plus pages. If you want details, you can click on the link to the report in the body of my post. I can assure you they have plenty of mind numbing stats in the actual report. You can also do your own research on the Brookings Institution because it sounds like, before today, you had never heard of them.

    BTW, love affair ending were the words of the lead author on the report.

  • Tim Cleland

    “A possible ceiling in the amount of driving any one individual can tolerate”

    Related to this one is dwindling traffic jam tolerance. When I lived in Cincinnati a traffic jam

    (usually caused by an accident or construction) could cause my 30 minute commute to become 90 (stressful) minutes. That was 15 years ago, now there are probably a lot more cars on the road then there was back then.

  • Tim Cleland

    “A possible ceiling in the amount of driving any one individual can tolerate”

    Related to this one is dwindling traffic jam tolerance. When I lived in Cincinnati a traffic jam

    (usually caused by an accident or construction) could cause my 30 minute commute to become 90 (stressful) minutes. That was 15 years ago, now there are probably a lot more cars on the road then there was back then.

  • Tim Cleland

    “A possible ceiling in the amount of driving any one individual can tolerate”

    Related to this one is dwindling traffic jam tolerance. When I lived in Cincinnati a traffic jam

    (usually caused by an accident or construction) could cause my 30 minute commute to become 90 (stressful) minutes. That was 15 years ago, now there are probably a lot more cars on the road then there was back then.

  • Tim Cleland

    Personally, I would like to see a tax shift from income and payroll taxes to gas taxes. That would discourage “bad” behavior of consuming foreign petroleum while encouraging employment (productivity).

  • Tim Cleland

    Personally, I would like to see a tax shift from income and payroll taxes to gas taxes. That would discourage “bad” behavior of consuming foreign petroleum while encouraging employment (productivity).

  • Tim Cleland

    Personally, I would like to see a tax shift from income and payroll taxes to gas taxes. That would discourage “bad” behavior of consuming foreign petroleum while encouraging employment (productivity).

  • http://allcarselectric.com Rob

    I hope this article holds true. When someone figures out how to build an affordable Tesla Roadster there will be more room on the roads for me.

    I think for this to happen, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way people choose to live – higher population densities, mixed residential / commercial / industrial uses, etc. – basically new urbanism.

    The problem is that right now, many people would prefer not to live this way. They’ve been born in and will retire in suburban areas where they’re accustomed to commuting between suburbs for work, shopping, pleasure, etc. They appreciate having a yard with a fence around it.

    To change this would require an enormous investment in infrastructure, not to mention a ton of public education. Could it happen? Yes. Will it happen soon? Probably not. We won’t know until the current generation is in the history books.

  • http://allcarselectric.com Rob

    I hope this article holds true. When someone figures out how to build an affordable Tesla Roadster there will be more room on the roads for me.

    I think for this to happen, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way people choose to live – higher population densities, mixed residential / commercial / industrial uses, etc. – basically new urbanism.

    The problem is that right now, many people would prefer not to live this way. They’ve been born in and will retire in suburban areas where they’re accustomed to commuting between suburbs for work, shopping, pleasure, etc. They appreciate having a yard with a fence around it.

    To change this would require an enormous investment in infrastructure, not to mention a ton of public education. Could it happen? Yes. Will it happen soon? Probably not. We won’t know until the current generation is in the history books.

  • http://allcarselectric.com Rob

    I hope this article holds true. When someone figures out how to build an affordable Tesla Roadster there will be more room on the roads for me.

    I think for this to happen, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way people choose to live – higher population densities, mixed residential / commercial / industrial uses, etc. – basically new urbanism.

    The problem is that right now, many people would prefer not to live this way. They’ve been born in and will retire in suburban areas where they’re accustomed to commuting between suburbs for work, shopping, pleasure, etc. They appreciate having a yard with a fence around it.

    To change this would require an enormous investment in infrastructure, not to mention a ton of public education. Could it happen? Yes. Will it happen soon? Probably not. We won’t know until the current generation is in the history books.

  • Ryan

    Changes in urbanization also have an influence. In the past decade, Houston and Dallas have experienced a lot of residential growth and development in and around their downtown areas, as more and more people are moving inward. In the decades before suburbs rapidly expanded outward. You have suburbs that are now an hour away from downtown. The bulk of traffic are those thousands of suburbians sitting bumper to bumper for 2-3 hours each day as they go back and forth to work.

  • Ryan

    Changes in urbanization also have an influence. In the past decade, Houston and Dallas have experienced a lot of residential growth and development in and around their downtown areas, as more and more people are moving inward. In the decades before suburbs rapidly expanded outward. You have suburbs that are now an hour away from downtown. The bulk of traffic are those thousands of suburbians sitting bumper to bumper for 2-3 hours each day as they go back and forth to work.

  • Ryan

    Changes in urbanization also have an influence. In the past decade, Houston and Dallas have experienced a lot of residential growth and development in and around their downtown areas, as more and more people are moving inward. In the decades before suburbs rapidly expanded outward. You have suburbs that are now an hour away from downtown. The bulk of traffic are those thousands of suburbians sitting bumper to bumper for 2-3 hours each day as they go back and forth to work.

  • Ryan

    4 day work weeks has shown to be a great alternative. Not only do people use less gas, save money, and help the environment at the same time, it may also help improve the quality of life for many people.

  • Ryan

    4 day work weeks has shown to be a great alternative. Not only do people use less gas, save money, and help the environment at the same time, it may also help improve the quality of life for many people.

  • Ryan

    4 day work weeks has shown to be a great alternative. Not only do people use less gas, save money, and help the environment at the same time, it may also help improve the quality of life for many people.

  • Doug

    The reason I don’t see this happening anytime soon is the fact it has to be done by the govt. Private companies are not going to invest in mass transit and that is the only way to truly develop an effective and cost efficient system. The US needs to develop a truly national transit system, but that is an extremely daunting task considering the shear scale of our country. I actually think the title of this article is spot on because America has lost its love affair with driving. As a country we used to love to go for a drive, but now we drive because we must. It has switched from a hot new girlfriend to an old nagging wife.

  • Doug

    The reason I don’t see this happening anytime soon is the fact it has to be done by the govt. Private companies are not going to invest in mass transit and that is the only way to truly develop an effective and cost efficient system. The US needs to develop a truly national transit system, but that is an extremely daunting task considering the shear scale of our country. I actually think the title of this article is spot on because America has lost its love affair with driving. As a country we used to love to go for a drive, but now we drive because we must. It has switched from a hot new girlfriend to an old nagging wife.

  • Mark

    Nick Chambers, You have to be careful what you write. The Republican party and corporate lobbyists are very powerful, and for the most part are just dying to kill alternative energy and transportation. Your last 2 articles gave them additional ammunition. That is what upsets me.

    In “Love Affair” you wrote that maybe we don’t need to maintain our roads because in 20 years we might not be driving very much. That can be extrapolated to — why worry about conservation, or pollution control, or alternative energy, or global warming? Heck, cars are going away, right? Let’s just leave things “as is” and let nature take it’s course.

    In “Upstart Chinese Car”, apparently you made a sarcastic remark about regulations. Okay, fine. I missed the joke. But just turn on Fox News or one of the many other conservative media outlets. They’ll gladly twist any remotely-relevant factoid to ridicule the changes you and I would like to see. Those guys LOVE YOU today.

    This blog is decent as it stands. But if you want to improve it, do 3 things. Be more politically aware. Support your points with facts.

  • Mark

    Nick Chambers, You have to be careful what you write. The Republican party and corporate lobbyists are very powerful, and for the most part are just dying to kill alternative energy and transportation. Your last 2 articles gave them additional ammunition. That is what upsets me.

    In “Love Affair” you wrote that maybe we don’t need to maintain our roads because in 20 years we might not be driving very much. That can be extrapolated to — why worry about conservation, or pollution control, or alternative energy, or global warming? Heck, cars are going away, right? Let’s just leave things “as is” and let nature take it’s course.

    In “Upstart Chinese Car”, apparently you made a sarcastic remark about regulations. Okay, fine. I missed the joke. But just turn on Fox News or one of the many other conservative media outlets. They’ll gladly twist any remotely-relevant factoid to ridicule the changes you and I would like to see. Those guys LOVE YOU today.

    This blog is decent as it stands. But if you want to improve it, do 3 things. Be more politically aware. Support your points with facts.

  • Mark

    Nick Chambers, You have to be careful what you write. The Republican party and corporate lobbyists are very powerful, and for the most part are just dying to kill alternative energy and transportation. Your last 2 articles gave them additional ammunition. That is what upsets me.

    In “Love Affair” you wrote that maybe we don’t need to maintain our roads because in 20 years we might not be driving very much. That can be extrapolated to — why worry about conservation, or pollution control, or alternative energy, or global warming? Heck, cars are going away, right? Let’s just leave things “as is” and let nature take it’s course.

    In “Upstart Chinese Car”, apparently you made a sarcastic remark about regulations. Okay, fine. I missed the joke. But just turn on Fox News or one of the many other conservative media outlets. They’ll gladly twist any remotely-relevant factoid to ridicule the changes you and I would like to see. Those guys LOVE YOU today.

    This blog is decent as it stands. But if you want to improve it, do 3 things. Be more politically aware. Support your points with facts.

  • http://allcarselectric.com Rob

    I don’t think people have fallen out of love with driving. That’s a broad generalization. Prior to this economic meltdown, the car modification industry was raking in millions, to the point that some automakers started selling their own mods (think Nismo, TRD, STI, etc.). There are countless movies and songs about cars. There are still weekly cruise nights around the country. Right or wrong, cars and driving are a big part of our culture.

    People are certainly frustrated with traffic congestion, but plenty of people still enjoy a drive. I know I do, and I live in one of the most congested suburban areas in the country.

  • http://allcarselectric.com Rob

    I don’t think people have fallen out of love with driving. That’s a broad generalization. Prior to this economic meltdown, the car modification industry was raking in millions, to the point that some automakers started selling their own mods (think Nismo, TRD, STI, etc.). There are countless movies and songs about cars. There are still weekly cruise nights around the country. Right or wrong, cars and driving are a big part of our culture.

    People are certainly frustrated with traffic congestion, but plenty of people still enjoy a drive. I know I do, and I live in one of the most congested suburban areas in the country.

  • Doug

    Hey Mark that sound outside your windows is not little black helicopters and I promise the Aliens are not coming to probe you. Enough with the wack job conspiracy theories already. Sorry to hurt your feelings, but the Illuminati is fake and Bush is not the anti-Christ. “They” are not sitting around reading random blogs in search of a way to stop all you do-gooders. I mean really wow!

  • Doug

    Hey Mark that sound outside your windows is not little black helicopters and I promise the Aliens are not coming to probe you. Enough with the wack job conspiracy theories already. Sorry to hurt your feelings, but the Illuminati is fake and Bush is not the anti-Christ. “They” are not sitting around reading random blogs in search of a way to stop all you do-gooders. I mean really wow!

  • Nick Chambers

    Mark,

    I still think you’re way off the mark.

    #1 I’m not the author of the BYD post. I’m the editor of this whole site and therefore end up moderating some of the more inane comments.

    #2 Look in the mirror. The same claims you make of “them” twisting what I say to their advantage, you yourself are doing with what I wrote. And you’re not the first. There have been many that have come and gone in the comments section like you from both sides of the extreme. I never said we don’t need to maintain our roads. I said we don’t want to allocate resources in the wrong place. Obviously as long as people are still driving we will need to maintain our roads, but perhaps we don’t need to make new ones or add additional lanes?

    #3 Snarky comments about how I should “be more politically aware” and “support my points with facts” just make you look like more of a jerk. My point is supported by the facts in the report. This post is about that one report. There may be other information that contradicts that report, but I haven’t found it yet. When you do, and you feel like adding something constructive to this conversation, feel free. But until then, get your own house in order.

  • http://cumulativemodel.blogspot.com aaron

    Tim Cleland, sorry, but the correlation of gas prices and efficiency has gone negative. We only see reductions in consumption due to forgone economic activity. We actually get less done with the same amount of fuel when gas prices go up, for several reason including some mentioned in the article:

    1.People are at their limit of how much driving they will tolerate. This means we get giffen behavior when gas prices increase. People spend more time driving for work, when there’s lot’s of traffic, just to get ends to meet, and shift driving away from less congested times.

    2. People have big misconceptions about what is efficient. Driving slower saves fuel, when your driving above 55mph. Below 40mph, driving faster is more efficient. Accelerating faster is about the same, or slightly more efficiency, than accelerating slowly. Typical car engines don’t see efficiency drop off until after 3000rpms.

    3. Tragedy of the commons. About the most fuel efficient behavior you could adopt is avoiding braking. However, if you do this during congestion, you prevent cars from clearing into your queue and create more bottlenecks. Starting from a stop is the big gas waster. A stop can take 6 times more fuel than a rolling stop.

  • http://cumulativemodel.blogspot.com aaron

    Tim Cleland, sorry, but the correlation of gas prices and efficiency has gone negative. We only see reductions in consumption due to forgone economic activity. We actually get less done with the same amount of fuel when gas prices go up, for several reason including some mentioned in the article:

    1.People are at their limit of how much driving they will tolerate. This means we get giffen behavior when gas prices increase. People spend more time driving for work, when there’s lot’s of traffic, just to get ends to meet, and shift driving away from less congested times.

    2. People have big misconceptions about what is efficient. Driving slower saves fuel, when your driving above 55mph. Below 40mph, driving faster is more efficient. Accelerating faster is about the same, or slightly more efficiency, than accelerating slowly. Typical car engines don’t see efficiency drop off until after 3000rpms.

    3. Tragedy of the commons. About the most fuel efficient behavior you could adopt is avoiding braking. However, if you do this during congestion, you prevent cars from clearing into your queue and create more bottlenecks. Starting from a stop is the big gas waster. A stop can take 6 times more fuel than a rolling stop.

  • http://cumulativemodel.blogspot.com aaron

    Ryan, unfortunately, when times are lean (which happens when gas prices are high) people return to more conservative dress and traditional work hours to compete for jobs.

  • http://cumulativemodel.blogspot.com aaron

    Ryan, unfortunately, when times are lean (which happens when gas prices are high) people return to more conservative dress and traditional work hours to compete for jobs.

  • Ryan

    It is unfortunate. Most organizational leaders are so focused on their selfishness and greed that they neglect their most valuable resource: humans.

  • Ryan

    It is unfortunate. Most organizational leaders are so focused on their selfishness and greed that they neglect their most valuable resource: humans.

  • Ryan

    Back on topic, it would be nice to at least have the option of safe, economical, mass transit.

  • Ryan

    Back on topic, it would be nice to at least have the option of safe, economical, mass transit.

  • Mark

    Nick Chambers:

    I don’t care if you think I’m a “jerk”, nor am I bothered by any of your other insults. I’ll simply point out that it is you who call names. Every comment from you on this site is an attack on someone with a dissenting opinion.

    As editor you are responsible for choosing what gets printed on your site, as well as how that content is presented. I’ve done my job. I think now you’ll be more careful about spreading stories that are potentially harmful to your own goals.

    I’ll leave you now. Apparently name calling is what passes for intelligent discourse. Over and out.

  • Mark

    Nick Chambers:

    I don’t care if you think I’m a “jerk”, nor am I bothered by any of your other insults. I’ll simply point out that it is you who call names. Every comment from you on this site is an attack on someone with a dissenting opinion.

    As editor you are responsible for choosing what gets printed on your site, as well as how that content is presented. I’ve done my job. I think now you’ll be more careful about spreading stories that are potentially harmful to your own goals.

    I’ll leave you now. Apparently name calling is what passes for intelligent discourse. Over and out.

  • J

    “The bulk of traffic are those thousands of suburbians sitting bumper to bumper for 2-3 hours each day as they go back and forth to work”

    I hear that all the time but find it pretty difficult to believe. In the case of your example, until recently I lived in one of those outlying Dallas suburbs (Frisco). Nearly all of my neighbors worked at Legacy Business Park (about 3 miles away), the remainder somewhere outside 635, mostly north of the GBT. The situation is similar in the outlying burb I live in now – 40 miles from city center, I am not aware of a single neighbor who works more than 10 miles away except me, but I only go into the office once a week – and was when I lived on the west coast as well, leaving me very suspicious of the general criticisms of urban sprawl.

    On the public transportation issue: the area I live in now has an outstanding rapid transit system that is grossly underutilized. I hear one massively expensive idea for increasing ridership after another, when one simple, relatively cheap (by mass transit standards anyway) measure would, I’m pretty sure, massively increase ridership in an instant: put a police officer on every car (the same was true of th DART rail system in Dallas, by the way). You will never get people to use public transit if they believe doing so puts them in danger.

  • J

    “The bulk of traffic are those thousands of suburbians sitting bumper to bumper for 2-3 hours each day as they go back and forth to work”

    I hear that all the time but find it pretty difficult to believe. In the case of your example, until recently I lived in one of those outlying Dallas suburbs (Frisco). Nearly all of my neighbors worked at Legacy Business Park (about 3 miles away), the remainder somewhere outside 635, mostly north of the GBT. The situation is similar in the outlying burb I live in now – 40 miles from city center, I am not aware of a single neighbor who works more than 10 miles away except me, but I only go into the office once a week – and was when I lived on the west coast as well, leaving me very suspicious of the general criticisms of urban sprawl.

    On the public transportation issue: the area I live in now has an outstanding rapid transit system that is grossly underutilized. I hear one massively expensive idea for increasing ridership after another, when one simple, relatively cheap (by mass transit standards anyway) measure would, I’m pretty sure, massively increase ridership in an instant: put a police officer on every car (the same was true of th DART rail system in Dallas, by the way). You will never get people to use public transit if they believe doing so puts them in danger.

  • Foobarista

    Part of the reason for miles going down is the Internet. People telecommute more, order stuff online (regular deliveries by USPS or UPS are more efficient than a zillion people heading to the mall), take care of bureaucratic stuff online, etc. I haven’t had to go to a government office in years, while ten years ago I’d have to go at least twice a month or so – I do all this sort of thing online nowadays.

    We still drive cars to go to work and to buy groceries, but we only put about 20K miles a year combined on two cars, with about 15K put on by my wife as a small business broker. In the 1990s, I’d routinely run up 25K miles in a year by myself.

    Given this, I can’t help but wonder if the best “transportation infrastructure” for the buck is superfast internet for all.

  • Foobarista

    Part of the reason for miles going down is the Internet. People telecommute more, order stuff online (regular deliveries by USPS or UPS are more efficient than a zillion people heading to the mall), take care of bureaucratic stuff online, etc. I haven’t had to go to a government office in years, while ten years ago I’d have to go at least twice a month or so – I do all this sort of thing online nowadays.

    We still drive cars to go to work and to buy groceries, but we only put about 20K miles a year combined on two cars, with about 15K put on by my wife as a small business broker. In the 1990s, I’d routinely run up 25K miles in a year by myself.

    Given this, I can’t help but wonder if the best “transportation infrastructure” for the buck is superfast internet for all.

  • Foobarista

    Part of the reason for miles going down is the Internet. People telecommute more, order stuff online (regular deliveries by USPS or UPS are more efficient than a zillion people heading to the mall), take care of bureaucratic stuff online, etc. I haven’t had to go to a government office in years, while ten years ago I’d have to go at least twice a month or so – I do all this sort of thing online nowadays.

    We still drive cars to go to work and to buy groceries, but we only put about 20K miles a year combined on two cars, with about 15K put on by my wife as a small business broker. In the 1990s, I’d routinely run up 25K miles in a year by myself.

    Given this, I can’t help but wonder if the best “transportation infrastructure” for the buck is superfast internet for all.

  • Larry Gawronski

    When the spike in gasoline hit during the summer, it seemed so severe for some people that they drove less while cutting back on other items for the gas they did have to buy. Oil was considered a major threat to our economy.

    The lowering of recent gas prices have given many people a new sense of economic security in which they seem to have forgotten the $4.00 a gallon price just four or five months ago. In my area, you would hardy see a Hummer on the road back then, now they are popping up everywhere again, more and more everyday. It is like drivers parked them in a garage waiting for them to be affordable to drive again.

    It is the same with our local utility companies. They kept the larger Ford F550 work trucks and other big vehicles in the parking fence and limited their use in the summer and early fall. Now the trucks are gone during the day showing they are being used again. It is a water company in Florida so there may be other factors than just fleet fueling costs, but I am sure it did have something to do with their budgets and fleet plans.

    Most concerning of less driving, while we do need to do so, is the majority mindset that has totally forgotten about alternative fueling sources, smaller vehicles, and other transportation forms. The talk around the water cooler, the local coffee shop, and the lobby at church was about the new technology being created for fueling our cars and trucks to get us off of imported oil and gasoline in general. Today, many of these same people I come in contact with say they have other things to be concerned about since they can “afford” gas again at $1.65 a gallon than the Pickens Plan, batteries for cars, or giving up size and comfort of a larger vehicle.

    It seems that as American’s more forward, we seem to forget about the past. It reminds me of the 1980′s all over again when my father went from driving less during the oil shortage to buying hot rod sportscars that drank fuel like a jogger drinking water. What a shame……..

  • Larry Gawronski

    When the spike in gasoline hit during the summer, it seemed so severe for some people that they drove less while cutting back on other items for the gas they did have to buy. Oil was considered a major threat to our economy.

    The lowering of recent gas prices have given many people a new sense of economic security in which they seem to have forgotten the $4.00 a gallon price just four or five months ago. In my area, you would hardy see a Hummer on the road back then, now they are popping up everywhere again, more and more everyday. It is like drivers parked them in a garage waiting for them to be affordable to drive again.

    It is the same with our local utility companies. They kept the larger Ford F550 work trucks and other big vehicles in the parking fence and limited their use in the summer and early fall. Now the trucks are gone during the day showing they are being used again. It is a water company in Florida so there may be other factors than just fleet fueling costs, but I am sure it did have something to do with their budgets and fleet plans.

    Most concerning of less driving, while we do need to do so, is the majority mindset that has totally forgotten about alternative fueling sources, smaller vehicles, and other transportation forms. The talk around the water cooler, the local coffee shop, and the lobby at church was about the new technology being created for fueling our cars and trucks to get us off of imported oil and gasoline in general. Today, many of these same people I come in contact with say they have other things to be concerned about since they can “afford” gas again at $1.65 a gallon than the Pickens Plan, batteries for cars, or giving up size and comfort of a larger vehicle.

    It seems that as American’s more forward, we seem to forget about the past. It reminds me of the 1980′s all over again when my father went from driving less during the oil shortage to buying hot rod sportscars that drank fuel like a jogger drinking water. What a shame……..

  • Rog in Miami Gardens

    I don’t know, guys. I think this is a permanent shift because there are other deeper, soul-searching issues taking place, as well. With the recent debaucle involving bailouts for Wall Street and the Auto Big-Three, and the thousands of lay-offs, many average Americans are reassessing what is really important. I tried to avoid being anecdotal, but I can point to three of my friends, one who is married with children, who are either thinking of going carless or are getting rid of one of their family cars. Now, two of them had fiscal reasons. The third, however, is in a situation where her and her husband have decent jobs, but they just don’t feel it necessary to own two cars anymore. In fact, the husband catches the express bus to work now, the last I heard. If the economy does improve, you will always have that stubborn percentage who will return to their old ways, but I think a large majority of us will continue to live a different sort of lifestyle than we did before this crisis. Also, if the economy does improve, I get the feeling that it won’t “improve” in the way we might think. People will have and regain jobs, but these jobs are going to pay way less (particularly in the financial services industry) and will require way more flexibility from employees AND employers. And to go further off-topic, the way we view “success” is going to radically change. I volunteer with elementary-age school children, and their outlook on the world seems just so much more practical and realistic than it did when I was their age. It’s fascinating.

  • Rog in Miami Gardens

    I don’t know, guys. I think this is a permanent shift because there are other deeper, soul-searching issues taking place, as well. With the recent debaucle involving bailouts for Wall Street and the Auto Big-Three, and the thousands of lay-offs, many average Americans are reassessing what is really important. I tried to avoid being anecdotal, but I can point to three of my friends, one who is married with children, who are either thinking of going carless or are getting rid of one of their family cars. Now, two of them had fiscal reasons. The third, however, is in a situation where her and her husband have decent jobs, but they just don’t feel it necessary to own two cars anymore. In fact, the husband catches the express bus to work now, the last I heard. If the economy does improve, you will always have that stubborn percentage who will return to their old ways, but I think a large majority of us will continue to live a different sort of lifestyle than we did before this crisis. Also, if the economy does improve, I get the feeling that it won’t “improve” in the way we might think. People will have and regain jobs, but these jobs are going to pay way less (particularly in the financial services industry) and will require way more flexibility from employees AND employers. And to go further off-topic, the way we view “success” is going to radically change. I volunteer with elementary-age school children, and their outlook on the world seems just so much more practical and realistic than it did when I was their age. It’s fascinating.

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