Have we finally reached Peak Car?

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© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A new report from The University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation confirms that we really are at Peak Car. Michael Sivak and his team looked at the ownership and the distance driven in cars, pickups, SUVs and vans between 1984 and 2015 and found:

  • The vehicle-ownership rates per person and per household both reached their maxima in 2006. The two rates for 2015 are down, on average, 4.4% from their maxima, although they have rebounded, on average, 1.4% from the post-maximum minima reached in 2012 and 2013.
  • The distance-driven rates per person and per household both reached their maxima in 2004. The two rates for 2015 are down, on average, 7.8% from their maxima, although they have rebounded, on average, 2.1% from the post-maximum minima reached in 2013.
  • © University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation

    This is surprising for a number of reasons; gas is so cheap that one would think that people would be driving more, and in fact there is a little uptick in the distances driven per household in 2014 and 2015.

    Also, as the economy recovered, car sales did as well since the Great Recession, albeit more because of baby boomers than young people, as we noted in It’s not the economy, stupid; young people really are turning their backs on cars.

    Michael Sivak doesn’t go into a discussion of the reasons for this continuing drop. There are many reasons we have discussed on TreeHugger: the meteoric rise of the smart phone as our main communication tool, and perhaps that "driving just isn’t as much fun as it used to be. The roads are clogged, the parking is hard to find, you don’t pick people up by cruising down Main Street anymore, you can’t fiddle with your car because they have turned into computers."

    There are any number of reasons, but from a TreeHugger point of view, it can only be a good thing; who knows, perhaps it’s because they are all living in cities and riding bikes.

    More in the Abstract here.

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