The Driving Boom is Over

Robert Steuteville for Better! Cities & Towns:

Total US driving dipped and then leveled off in recent years, and per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has steadily dropped since 2005 — 93 months. Per capita driving is down 8.75 percent, and is now at 1996 levels. The decline has no end in sight. The turnabout wouldn’t seem so remarkable if it hadn’t followed six decades of steady and substantial rises in VMT fueled by cheap gasoline, highway construction, suburban development, and women entering the workforce.

The trend is most pronounced among the young. “Between 2001 and 2009, the average yearly number of miles driven by 16- to 34-year-olds dropped a staggering 23 percent,” wrote Brad Plumer of The Washington Post. This cohort includes both Millennials and Generation X, but the trend is strongest among Millennials.

The car, a symbol of liberty in the 20th century, has now become a symbol of entrapment. What once was freedom is now a burden.

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