By Joan Mooney
Are Americans driving more or less? Does the increased popularity of walkable neighborhoods have a significant effect on driving? Or are our roads handling more traffic than ever? The measure- ment Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)
helps to gauge trends in driving. VMT is tracked by the
Federal Highway Administration, and data is released on
a monthly basis.
It is not surprising that VMT has increased greatly over
the years as the nation experienced increased suburban
development, increased car ownership and a growing population. But in the 21st Century, the trends have become
Vehicle miles traveled rose steadily from 1980 to November 2007, when it started a decline that lasted 18 months.
That was the longest drop the Federal Highway Admin-
istration had seen since it started keeping track in 1950,
said spokesman Doug Hecox. It was a long struggle
for VMT to recover, and the drop and slow return
coincided approximately with the recession and slow
economic recovery. VMT was fairly flat from 2010
Then in 2014, VMT increased. In 2015, a new VMT
high was reached, and 2016 figures are expected to be
higher still. Does that sharp increase mean that millennials have embraced the car after all?
The last big increase in VMT occurred as baby boomers
came of working age and formed families, and women
joined the workforce in large numbers. So are millennials taking on their parents’ habits? Few observers think
so, offering other explanations for the recent rise.
The last big increase
in VMT occurred as baby
boomers came of working age.
Are people driving
more or less?
Increase in miles traveled not as steady
as it was in the 20th century
Courtesy of NYC & Company/Photo by Julien Neschaer
Courtesy of WSDOT