By on September 2, 2013

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Is the American love affair with the automobile over? Total miles driven in the United States peaked in August of 2007, then dropped during the recession and has leveled off since then, though the economy is growing slightly and the population is increasing. According to the Detroit News, the Federal Highway Administration just reported that miles traveled during the first six months of 2013 continued the trend, being down slightly from 2012.

Individual miles traveled actually peaked in 2004, at about 900 miles per driver per month. By mid 2012, that had dropped to 820 miles per month. Per capita automobile use is now about where it was in the late 1990s. Until then, driving mileage generally tracked economic growth, according to U.S. Transportation Department economists Don Pickrell and David Pace (PDF presentation here). Since the late 1990s, though, the when the economy has grown, it has grown more rapidly than car use.

driving

Meanwhile, the percentage of young people in their teens, 20s and 30s that don’t have driver’s licenses has been growing leading some to suggest that getting a driver’s license is no longer the American rite of passage it once was.

Researchers are divided on the reasons. One group blames the economy. Another group says that financial matters are a factor but that there are fundamental changes going on in how Americans see the personal automobile. In some urban areas a car is seen as more of a headache than fun.

Lifestyles are changing. People do more shopping online. Social networking is replacing in person visits with friends. Public transit, biking and walking to work are said to be on the increase. Pickerel and Pace say that these popular explanations do not necessarily match the data.

Demographics are also a factor. For all of the emphasis on younger drivers, baby boomers are exiting normal peak driving years between the ages of 45 and 55, also peak earning years. “They are still the dominant players, and they are moving toward a quieter transportation lifestyle,” Alan Pisarski, author of Commuting in America, said.

There is also a gender gap. Men generally drive more than women and now there are more women than men in the U.S. who have driver’s licenses. Also male employment was hard hit during the recession, and driving closely tracks to employment.

In any case, many economists say that a large number of Americans, especially teens and young adults, simply can’t afford to buy and insure a new car.

The driving decline has public policy implications. Less driving means less federal and state gas tax revenues, but it also means fewer resources need to be allocated to road building and maintenance.

We apologize for the shaky video. Unfortunately the DoT’s Volpe Center did not put it on YouTube or provide embedding code, so we had to do a screen capture and the results were not ideal. However, the information in the presentation is worthwhile so we put it up.

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87 Comments on “Is America’s Love Affair With The Car Over? Americans Driving Less...”


  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    The same period has seen a trend of people moving back into cities. That could lead to shorter commutes. Local evidence suggests that suburban school districts are now often as bad as the city ones. Information is available on a per school basis. The result is that parents don’t automatically choose the suburbs to raise their kids anymore. They can invest in an established neighborhood with a nice school for less than tuition. And, since the neighborhood is established, the risks are lower than a new development where you get more home, but could easily end up upside down in a few years.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      I remember a pretty big bust a few years back in a high school located in Microsoft’s high-income backyard:

      http://www.king5.com/news/Police-arresting-11-students-at-Redmond-High-School-84783892.html

      When you see kids scoring stuff in the inner cities, they’re usually kids from the suburbs. You know, kids with actual cash to spend on such things.

    • 0 avatar

      I think rising fuel prices have finally reached the point that the economic advantage conferred on people living way outside of town is now gone. People used to trade time and distance for a lower house payment, now houses are cheaper, gas is higher and people can live closer to work for the same money. With the economic advantage gone, people are opting to get back more of their time.

      I think the comments about people shopping on line are spot on as well. You can research prices and know exactly what store is the cheapest. There is no need for a lot of running around. GPS, too, is likely saving miles, telling people the right way to go and getting them to their destination without any hassle. Since we are talking about 80 miles a year being saved, my guess is that it people are cutting off a mile here and it it’s having a cumulative effect rather than people making huge lifestyle changes.

      We can talk about debt and family size and my “kids, kids, kids” too. Social media allows people to focus on the same small group of people all the time, meaning their personal circle isn’t growing. A smaller circle of people means lessened opportunities for breeding. If all the girls in your circle have boyfriends, and if you are too focused on that one group, you aren’t getting out there to meet new girls. Hat’s OK though, because we also have access to a constant stream of porn so people don’t feel sexually frustrated enough to make them get out there and fight the good fight. With less chances for meeting people and less chances of having kids, it makes sense the that family sizes will drop.

      • 0 avatar
        CurseWord

        Damn near everything you said is spot on. With gas prices now, a commute is expensive. It can even be seen as a luxury now, depending on your commute and your income.

        I think the idea behind the shrinking families probably has a bigger impact on simple social interaction than “lessened opportunities for breeding.” I think we get enough friendly interaction online, from that small circle, so we aren’t driven to go out, which can lead to meeting new people, which then leads to new social interactions = more driving.

        We go out less, and then we have less reason to go out. There’s so much stimuli available at your house, you can get enough interaction and sexual dopamine that you don’t need to leave as often.

        An extrovert doesn’t need to show up to every social occasion, because they can run around Facebook and Twitter.

        But the housing, schools, excitement for city dwelling, I agree.

        Within that I think people are more excited to stay in urban areas, because of the culture, density of activities, social possibilities (ironic I know). We’re starting families later, so there’s no reason to move to a suburb and leave the fun life of a city.

  • avatar
    08Suzuki

    This is what Jalopnik’s been angsting over nonstop for what seems like forever now.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    I this trend a bad thing? How is the motor industry dealing with these trends?

  • avatar
    afflo

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/08/its-official-western-europeans-have-more-cars-per-person-than-americans/261108/

    Income inequality, declining middle class. Unsurprising.

    • 0 avatar
      Madroc

      This. And please, please, commentariat, I beg you to take this as an economic and mathematical observation, not a political one, but…

      A graph tracking miles against median real household (or per capita) income would probably be a lot more illuminating than one tracking real GDP. GDP gains are going to a smaller and smaller segment of the population, so GDP is less and less useful as a measure of typical individual income or wealth. And “typical” is probably what you want for a study like this because it’s not like a CEO is going to drive 200 times as many miles as an entry-level worker in the same company, even if he makes 200 times as much money.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Per capita is a good idea, family income is a phony number that will be abandoned as soon as family size grows and the numbers don’t fit the narrative anymore.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          “as soon as family size grows”

          Now that took me aback… why would family size grow? Do you mean the return of extended families because there are no longer opportunities to lure away younger members?

          • 0 avatar
            BobinPgh

            Kenmore, most of the guys here are pro-kid and pro-family. Must be a lot from the midwest and Texas where people have to have cars and large families.

            An example of pro-family is Thomas Kreutzer’s articles, every one of them somehow refers to his kids, kids, kids.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            I think Landcrusher may mean something more macro, newer and maybe a little sinister. There have always been families like the one I came from and TK’s very similar one, and there will continue to be more moderated ones for the foreseeable future. But I doubt Moss Boss’ Brother is going to have the 6-9 kids our parents’ generation averaged.

            So even those most dedicated to building families are starting later and having fewer kids. And with White- and Asian-American reproduction rate barely hovering around replacement level there is only one way those particular families can grow; redefining “family” and packing more generations under the same roof. And what would cause that except vanishing social mobility?

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            It’s one of my favorite pet peeves. Dr. Thomas Sowell is the guy who has been fighting this since the eighties.

            Median Family Income is used to create all sorts of misleading studies, statistics, and factoids. In almost every case it alters or exaggerates the actual situation. The primary problem is that family size has been shrinking since, IIRC, the sixties. Up until recently, the effect could be used along with year picking to make the average family worse off when they were better off or much worse off when they were really close to static on a per capita basis.

            Mostly this was done to make Reagan era policies appear to be the cause of great evil in order to help sell some sort of distribution program.

            The other great bit of common sense that Dr. Sowell explains is that our personal income changes over our lives. People hear averages and have no idea how to really interpret what it means. If you are in your twenties, thirties, or forties a number like $80,000 means different things to you. Demographic changes make the numbers generally misleading for most uses.

            So, bottom line, if more people get married and stay married, you will find that you likely stop hearing the term median family income unless they fix the fact that it makes people suddenly appear richer.

          • 0 avatar
            DC Bruce

            The big driver of decreasing family size is the rise of single-parent households, not the fact the people have fewer children . . . although that, too, is a contributor.

            For that reason, a lot of people have complained about the “household income” number as being a rubber yardstick. Probably per capita income for those over 18, or 22, is a more meaningful number.

        • 0 avatar
          chaparral

          Why would family size grow?

          Americans have very few qualms about substituting imports when they’re cheaper than domestic production.

          It’s cheaper to build Americans abroad and import them now than to build them here, so why would you expect an increase in domestic production?

          Extended-family growth is typically not reported to the IRS etc.

    • 0 avatar

      The US has been undergoing a population explosion, due largely to mass immigration of largely unskilled people.

      total population:

      1990–248 million
      2000–281 million
      2013–315-320 million

      2/3-3/4 of this growth is immigration, and 3/4 of that is people without skills. (Our de facto immigration policy is to import cheap labor.) That accounts for ***some*** of the increasing inequality, and decline of the middle class. And it almost certainly accounts for some of the decline in car miles per capita.

  • avatar
    brid1970

    Let’s see if I get this straight.
    After college they move back in with their parents, and having been weaned on Hollywood movies, they don’t believe in marriage, so they don’t get married and buy a house, and now you tell us they are not driving cars much.
    Is this called living a virtual life through their iPads, iPhones, and tablets?
    Hark, a new world’s a comin…. and it sounds like fodder for an interesting sociological study.
    In any case, as a victim of wanderlust, I do revel in the prospect of fewer cars in my path.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “it sounds like fodder for an interesting sociological study.”

      It sounds more like studying a society of introverts and isolationists.

      This was actually heard at my house last year,

      15-year old grand daughter, “Grandma why do I need a drivers license?”

      Grandma, “It’s one more goal you need to achieve on the path to becoming an adult. You will need a drivers license in life. Even if you don’t drive, it is a good form of identification. Now go study the booklet. I’m giving you a test later!”

      Now you can’t get the grand daughter out of the car. She’s always off someplace with her girl friends.

      Then again, she doesn’t have to pay for the gas, insurance or the car. It’s all furnished by me and grandma.

    • 0 avatar
      J.Emerson

      Getting married, buying a house, and buying a car all require significant financial resources that most young people freshly graduated from college do not possess. If I walk out of school with $30,000-$50,000 dollars in debt, even for a career with high demand and high earnings potential, that will necessarily limit my options for a significant amount of time. In a world where a high school diploma is barely worth the paper it’s printed on, there aren’t a whole lot of other options if you aspire to a meaningful career. When the job pool for new grads contracts, then the effects of this system become even more acute.

      It’s very easy for people who are well advanced in their careers and well situated in life to simply sit there and take swipes at the young ‘uns. Some of them like to fantasize that they’re the last generation to care about consumer goods, families, and independent living. That’s easier than confronting the financial realities of the high-school-to-college system and the unpleasant side effects of it.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        ++
        Would anyone here seriously argue that the majority of today’s kids, through absolutely no fault of theirs and in spite of often heroic efforts to the contrary, are *not* pretty thoroughly hosed?

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          I would argue that many are hosed, but not that it is due to no fault of their own.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          Depends what you mean by hosed.

          Controlled and regimented to a larger degree than American society has been in the past, absolutely. I believe that’s more important than economics and frankly feel sorry for you.

          But in the context of an economic argument to call this “hosed through no fault of your own” is the entitled whining that freshly minted youth has done for as long as there’s been people.

          The baseline of the world is not the 00s when the wealth of the entire world was flowing to America and anyone with a pulse could take a 4 year vacation at a university and immediately receive a new car and a new house afterwards.

          Hosed isn’t not having the toys you want. Hosed is hungry.

          • 0 avatar
            Onus

            I want to chime in. Great words.

            The thing is people here make a lot. Even in crappy jobs compared to some countries. It still allows a life of relative luxury too in comparison.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Yes, compared to many other places in the world, people in America do make a lot.

            America is still the destination of choice for millions upon millions of foreigners all seeking a chance at improving their lives. Over 12 million are here ILLEGALLY!

            Even with an official unemployment rate of over 7+% it also means that 92+% ARE working!

            What concerns me is the 63.7% labor participation rate because it shows us that out of ALL the people who could be part of the work force, 36.3% CHOOSE not to participate in working for a living.

            That negatively affects America’s tax base and revenue income.

            And that’s why America still has to IMPORT labor with H1B and other types of visas; to get people to come here and do the work Americans are either too dumb or too lazy to do.

  • avatar
    mor2bz

    It takes a car to fix a car, and since cars are now more reliable,
    fewer car miles are needed in the service of other cars.

    Also, GPS is saving millions of miles driving around lost.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Just about everyone I know is indeed driving less, less for work, less for vacation (staying close to home) less for leisure (Sunday” drives), more consolidated or online shopping and less going out in general, ALL due to the economy and how indeed wages have not kept up with the cost of living for most folks.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I shop for and buy my new two new cars online this year. Does that mean I just cut household mileage in half?

      I have over half dozen cars, mostly insured but as leisure cars. Must look like I only drive a couple thousand per year.

    • 0 avatar
      VoltOwner

      I’m actually driving more now that I have a Volt. It’s just so much fun, and it cost next to nothing to fuel up in my garage.

  • avatar

    The “growth” of the economy is false in the sense that pupulation is not getting any wealthier. Washington DC sucks up all the wealth and blows it on caviar, whores, champaign and other luxuries, leaving little for everyone else who historically did all the driving.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Wait ’til they get the bugs out of the transporter, then watch the love go… and they can take those little airplanes too

  • avatar
    el scotto

    No. This article makes the premise that the auto IS the transportation industry. Buses, the train, and airplanes have made traveling as cheap,or cheaper than driving. D.C. to NYC for 20$? Taking the train from rural VA to D.C. and not sitting in traffic? If I watch, I can get a flight from D.C. to Indy for less that what gas would cost for the drive. Some will wring their hands and gnash their teeth over this spurious premise. I’ll be checking my e-mail.

    • 0 avatar

      Getting a cheap flight well ahead of time, I paid 5 cents/mile for Boston-Logan, Seattle-Seatac, Boston-Logan in April 2012.

      And even my several round trip airfares to Raleigh-Durham, NC in ’08, ~same price as the Seattle trip ($300) were about 21 cents/mile.

      The cost of gasoline for driving across the country and back in 1970 would have been $517 (inflation-adjusted), assuming 25 mpg, or 8.6 cents/mile. (Inflation-adjiusted). The gasoline cost of driving across the country today, in my 38mpg (manual) Honda, assuming $3.80 gas would be $585.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Don’t forget to include cost of transportation at your destination and cost sharing from car pooling. Taking the family on those trips by plane may be far, far more expensive than driving, even if the cost of one ticket is less than gas.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          >> Taking the family on those trips by plane may be far, far more expensive

          Add in food and lodging for a family en-route, and the cost difference starts to narrow. On a budget, then stay at work for the days that you’d spend on the road and your extra earnings will probably narrow the cost difference further.

    • 0 avatar
      Hillman

      Not to mention the rise of the low cost bus services. I took a bus because the bus fare was cheaper then the tolls. That does not count the fun of parking a car in a northeastern city plus gas to and from. The China town buses along I95 to NYC are amazingly cheap and the respectable Megabus is a great deal.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Detroit missed this trend while the Japanese did not. Today, most look for value. Value is the lowest initial cost, least repairs, durability, and max resale. This is what Toyota and Honda deliver.

    But, Detroit is not structured to compete on value. Detroit is still structured such that union workers get their take. Detroit cut the supply which caused a temporary rise in car price that financed overpaid UAW workers and over-benefited UAW and Salary workers. But, the Asians will be filling that artificial supply gap, which will bring prices back down, and that will cause negative margins for Detroit. Mullay knows this, and he is crying about the JPYUSD and he is worried about idled Toyota factories in Japan.

    Detroit needs to face the fact that they are living in the past … Detroit, cars are nothing but commodity items and you are not the low cost producer nor do you offer the most value. Running negative smears against Toyota and Honda will not work. ( i.e. boring and recall attacks ). Some external event will occur that will put Detroit in crisis once again. Next time, we need to let the courts handle the restructuring … not the Democrats.

    • 0 avatar

      I would like to see a comparison of what Honda workers at Marysvale get vs. union workers assembling US cars. I bet it’s not all that different. (But feel free to provide any solid figures that say otherwise.)

      I would also like to know how much difference the wage differential makes in the cost to assemble the cars.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        It’s not the wages (anymore). It’s all those retirees that Detroit is on the hook for. And I assume that the UAW guys have a far more generous current benefit package too. I bet they pay less for their share of health insurance, probably get more vacation, and a quite good pension plan.

        Another factor in driving less has to be the working from home trend. Almost half my company does, and among my circle of friends about 1/3 do at least part of the time. We also are definitely having children MUCH later in life and fewer of them.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      I didn’t know GW Bush was a Dem? He initiated the bail outs. Also bailed out AIG, and other banks, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        I would be interested in what ways President Bush would have handled the auto bail outs differently, but the reality is that he was a pretty go along guy and by no means the extremist he was portrayed by the Dems.

        I would have much preferred the moderate response of letting the courts handle the problem and then possibly step in if necessary. It goes along with my theory that we shouldn’t go to war in a country, only against another country. When someone loses, they need to understand they failed or they likely won’t recover as well.

        Now, I would love to get to rewrite the bankruptcy laws. As a guy for actually free markets, most people would consider my desired changes rather extreme. I believe the people calling the shots get nothing, and creditors should get reimbursed based on how little they were allowed to affect outcome or allowed a decent view to see the failure coming. Bye, Bye Board, bye bye CXX, sorry about your golden parachute, watch your step as you leave the Gulfstream.

    • 0 avatar
      chaparral

      If your product is strictly a commodity then with adequate competition you will never make more than a normal return on capital – i.e. break even after your borrowing costs.

      To get out, either you’ll have to restrict your competitors’ sales, or you’ll have to sell something else. I think Detroit makes all of its money on V8-powered products, and does no better than break even on the sixes and fours.

    • 0 avatar
      VoltOwner

      ” Value is the lowest initial cost, least repairs, durability, and max resale. This is what Toyota and Honda deliver.”

      Must be why they are at the top of the list of recalls, from 2011:

      http://www.statisticbrain.com/automobile-recall-statistics/

      Honda tops the list with 3.8 million, Toyota is second with 3.5 million. GM only had half a million. On greater sales #’s to boot.

      Those numbers worked for me, my Accord went in and a new Volt took it’s place. Fewer headaches and almost zero maintenance were major factors, along with the much reduced gas usage.

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    Simplest explanation I can think of: The nature of postmodern economic growth isn’t dependent upon increased personal travel. When the new class of products and services are of an increasingly digital nature, accessible from anywhere, it’s not as likely that travel will be required to make use of them.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      I’m convinced another major factor is today’s sheer, hellish unattractiveness of driving anywhere near an urban area. When we coots were young, jumping into a car was an EXALTATION OF LARKS! (whew…catch breath)

      Now it’s slipping off a guano rock and being rent asunder by the entire rookery of albatross.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    The East Coast elite media has been using “Love Affair with Auto” for decades and I am sick to death of hearing it.

    Since 1973-74 Oil Crisis, the AP and NYT have decreed “The Love Affair is over”. They want us to be dependent on Public Trans and pay high taxes to pay for cushy city jobs. When car taxes are gone, where will revenue come from?

    People drive less to save $, and not wear out car, sounds sensible, but no we have to hear yet another story about “Affair”. No, not all of the USA is going to move to Manhattan like high rise areas, and be drones shoved into subway cars, as done in Japan.

    Just STFU!

  • avatar
    ajla

    I would think this development would be applauded around here considering how many times over the years I have read TTAC commenters chastising people for living outside their means, having entitlement, taking on too much loan debt, living too far from work, buying a used BMW instead of a Civic, etc.

  • avatar
    1998S90

    Build something seriously fun and seriously affordable.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    The wealthy make money through investment, the average American through home equity and pensions as they have little left over for investment or don’t. A super heated economy trickles down wage growth then takes it away with inflation. The wealthy don’t invest until the economy improves (why else would businesses sit on a trillion in cash?) and want an economy that scoots along at 3.2%+. Thus boom and bust cycles plus offshore sourcing has given a water treading economy…and the.consumer a cheaper job, lower wages and cheaper goods. I rarely see kids tooling around 1-2 per car…but 3-4 is really common. Cars moving from appliance to a luxury item?…who da thunk that.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I’ll give it to you in one word: S-E-X. It used to be, when a teen was looking for freedom – a used car – the back seat was a major consideration. In the ’50s and 60′s, the back seat was just like an overstuffed sofa, but without the prying eyes.

    Today, there are virtually no drive-in theaters, and back seats can barely fit two people sitting up! But look at society as a whole – sex and porn as far as the eye can see, from wardrobe malfunctions at football games to bump and grind at music awards on TV. Cars have lost their niche.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    All of you have made valid points about the reasons less miles are driven and why the economy is not as solid as the pundits say it is. Another reason is that the US is transitioning from the Number 1 World Power to a lesser power. We are slipping away as a technological leader and our educational system has been declining steadily. The USA’s role as the World’s policeman is draining us further. We need to rebuild our infrastructure and overhaul our education system. More emphasis needs to be put on mathematics and science, we need to develop our own engineers and scientist and not depend on importing large numbers of them. Many of today’s college graduates are not prepared for the new economy that is more global.

    It is true that many of today’s youth are more interested in tweeting and computer games with little interest in cars. I observe in my own neighborhood which is mostly younger children through high school that few children play outside and most are interested in electronic gadgets. Also I have many coworkers who have children that have come back home to live after college or a divorce. Many of today’s youth are still living at home with their parents well into their 30′s. It is too easy to blame all of our problems on bureaucrats and not look at everything as a whole.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Children don’t seem to be allowed to just go outside and play anymore. Oversctructured lives? Fear of abduction? I have no idea not having any rug rats, but you hardly ever see kids just running around anymore. I was kicked outside and not allowed back in as a kid from a pretty young age.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I was encouraged to go outside and play as well, that is how you meet other kids you own age. Now before a child can walk they are given an I-phone. All the sudden you child is a genius if they can use a I-phone or tablet before they can do anything else.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Street race 50 years ago and the automotive press calls you auto exec material. Street race now and you go to jail. There’s been a concerted campaign against young people who like cars, and it’s worked. Congratulations.

    As for macroeconomic stuff, I think it’s largely people buying houses and starting families later in life. That means young people are more likely to move closer to their new job instead of putting up with a long commute. Those long commutes are worse than before, because our increasing population means worse traffic even if miles-per-capita are a little lower. I don’t think the cost of driving is a major factor, just the time involved.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      I agree that some of the youth will start families later in life and buy houses and cars later, but America is a maturing economy and the growth in the industry has reached its peak. China on the other hand is an emerging economy and the growth in new auto sales is at a staggering rate. As big of a country as America is there will always be an industry, but it will be more of replacing older vehicles that have reached the end of their useful lives. Much of the current boom in auto and truck sales are to replace older vehicles. The Asian market is where the future growth of the auto industry is. China alone has over 300 million people that are considered middle class and above.

      The cost of maintaining a vehicle is important if you are underemployed and struggling to make a living. A decent reliable car can be unattainable to many who are struggling to get by. For many of us reading TTAC and commenting, we are very fortunate to have good jobs and the issue of affording a decent vehicle and its upkeep are not a concern. As for a campaign against young people who like cars I would disagree. If anything in such a consumer driven market you want young people to buy cars, especially new cars. The trouble with many younger people is that they are more interest in Smart or I-phones than cars. Many would just as soon text their friends and order what they want online than to go somewhere.

      Another thing to consider is many employers are offering telework to their employees. Either you can work at home two or three days a week or work at home without having to come into the office but a couple of times a month. When you have the choice of telework you drive less and therefore your vehicles last longer. Hard to get excited over getting a new vehicle when you drive less.

    • 0 avatar

      Makes me think. It would be interesting if they compared miles driven to hours driven. With commute times gone crazy,it makes sense that people will want to live closer.

      Somewhere, there has to be a statistic that shows the average mean for a person’s preferred drive-time. As the roads have become more jammed the distance must shrink to meet that desired drive-time.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    The decline of the dollar, increasing aggressiveness of the mobile tax collectors (aka state and local police), and the otherwise bland nature of most cars being built is the part of the problem. I love to drive but if you take the fun out of it most people would rather pass.

  • avatar

    Demographics beats everything.

    My parents are in their 70′s. Their primary vehicle is a 2002 Town and Country. It has 45k miles on it. In that time, I’ve logged 150k+ miles on the three vehicles i’ve owned in that time.

    There are a lot more old people out there. They don’t drive much, and pull the average down. There are a lot fewer young people out there to bring the average up. 20/30-somethings are getting married and having kids later, and they drive more because kids mean people drive out to the ‘burbs and drive more.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      Agree. Good observation. I am in my 60′s and I drive less than I did a few years ago. Also I get to work at home 2 to 3 days a week and when I go to the office I take the bus. The park and ride is 3 miles from my house and the bus drops me off in front of my office. My employer pays my bus fare but they do not provide parking.

      The interesting thing is that people 50 and older are buying most of the new cars and trucks. My wife just traded in her 2000 Taurus with 61k miles for a new 2013 CRV. I think a lot of the new car buying by those of us 50 and older are to get vehicles that meet our anticipated lifestyle change when we retire. That was why we bought a CRV.

      • 0 avatar

        Although I don’t commute, I still drive 15k a year at 60. Three round trips Boston-DC-Boston annually, several trips to Albany NY, various other shorter distance trips, a lot of visiting friends locally, going out in the evening. I drove only 6k/year when I had my first car, in my early 30s. At least up to a point, I feel like my miles driving correlates with happiness–both because I enjoy driving and because my driving is mostly for socializing.

  • avatar
    Kinosh

    As some *entirely* anecdotal evidence, I’ll present my situation.

    21 years old, Cincinnati area resident, University of Cincinnati student/Major OEM Co-Op. I garage a small sedan and take it out roughly 2-3x/month.

    1. Cars are expensive and most university students devote all of their income to education expenses.

    2. In walkable areas (such as near universities), getting my car out of the garage involves a ten minute walk and then a 5 minute drive from the top of a parking garage. It’s a PITA.

    3. Good transit and a cheap Metrocard program for students means that I can access most of my driving trips via bus. This is especially attractive, because although it may take twice as long as driving, I use this time to work on HW or personal projects.

    4. A lot of younger people are more aware of the social harms of driving. I personally ride the buses not for financial savings, but due to environmental, time (I can work on the buses, not so much while driving!), and social equity reasons.

    Are there a lot of Millennials who would drive a car if they could afford one? Yes. But the increased urbanization and social awareness is making walking/public transit a really viable alternative for more people.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      I dare anyone over 40 to contemplate Kinosh’s last two paragraphs and not weep.

      How thoroughly the forces of revenge and redistribution have done their jobs. Vipers in the nursery.

      Cheerful victims, earnest fodder. Hosed.

      • 0 avatar
        Kinosh

        I’ll expand a little on the last two paragraphs. I feel pretty involved in my community, and the benefits to transit over private automobile are:

        1. Decreased pollution (especially for routes with less than 100% use).

        2. Typically decreased personal financial cost.

        3. Improved travel times for autos by reduced congestion.

        4. Much more pleasant places to live (walkable and not cookie-cutter suburban areas).

        5. Social equity. Lower-income and transit dependent people have increased access to jobs, healthcare, and other institutions important to health/employment/quality of life.

        We’re cheerful “victims” to the same extent as an auto-dependent person living out in suburbia is.

        Don’t get me wrong, my paycheck depends on you buying new cars. I just don’t feel the need to drive one myself.

      • 0 avatar
        Brad2971

        I am 42, and I’m having a good laugh at the naive white hipster who wrote that. Yeah, I’m stereotyping. Sue me.

        Apparently, the young chap above doesn’t go out to venture in the more African-American and Latino neighborhoods of his metro area. He’d quickly find out that those African-americans and Latinos still want their cars and trucks, and mean to get them by any means necessary.

        BTW, Mr. Pisarski, who is quoted above, predicted the current circumstances in 1999.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I was sort of with him until this:

          “Yes. But the increased urbanization and social awareness is making walking/public transit a really viable alternative for more people.”

          I’m actually for increased walking where possible, but generally speaking there’s just alot wrong with the type of thinking presented above.

          • 0 avatar
            Kinosh

            What’s wrong with that sort of thinking? The consumption choices we make are also functions of what we believe.

            *Completely Acceptable Car-Centric View*
            “I’ll buy a yellow auto Camaro V6 cause that’s American muscle!”

            *Completely Acceptable Transit-Centric View*
            “I’ll take the bus because I want to reduce my carbon emissions and save the polar bears!”

            I can make the argument that any specific view is “wrong” and that’d be my opinion and nothing more. But its a factor.

            How many high-trim suburban F-150′s are being sold because of comfort/prestige/coolness?

      • 0 avatar

        I wonder how many of the people who don’t drive because of the environmental effects take multiple international jet flights every year.

        • 0 avatar
          Kinosh

          You’re absolutely correct, cars aren’t dead. Really, for the sake of my paycheck, I hope it stays that way.

          However, I’m not white, nor hipster (try to find an engineering student cool enough to call “hipster”), nor do I fly for anything other than required business travel. Better luck next time.

          • 0 avatar
            Brad2971

            At least you have enough of a sense of shame and embarrassment to understand that the term ‘hipster’ is, indeed, shameful;)

            Seriously, we’re just trying to get you to understand that the never-ending youth-hype machine that is today’s MSM is promoting a very nonsensical, youth-oriented reason for the drop in VMT.

            Since you sound like you’re in the auto business, I would emphasize to you that those baby-boomers who are buying large numbers of cars/trucks/crossovers right now are, in all likelihood, buying their last vehicles. I hope that your business has a Plan B for how they’re going to survive a drop of, oh, 2 million vehicles/year around 2019 or so. Especially if the economics for millenial ‘hipsters’ don’t markedly improve by then.

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          If you’re thinking about the “environmental impact” of your mode of travel, realize that commercial aircraft generate more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than anything; and, what’s worse, they do it at altitudes where there are no other biological processes going on the mitigate the problem.

  • avatar
    JD321

    America’s love affair with going to work is over just like the tax/inflation slaves in Europe. What’s that Billy Joel song…”There ain’t no place to go anyway…what for?”

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The times are a changin.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    We live in a rural area for a number of reasons. So I drive a lot, but we’ve cut back on the vacations in the past few years.

    Yesterday we drove down to the suburban super mall and faux-downtown living space to go to a grocery store called “Whole Foods”, which we walked out of with nothing. We lived in a apartment in this area when we first met, and we had the conversation, if we had to do it over again and move into town, would we go back to mega-suburban sprawl of these fabricated “downtowns” or actually move into the city.

    I picked the city. The houses our older and built far better, they hold there value more, and more then anything, I find it easier to drive around the actual city (traffic and roads) then in the suburbs. Only downside is the crime in the real city, which is a big downside, but could be easily curbed by paving over a few housing projects.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    The price of a college education in the US has risen something like 500% from the 1980s, probably when most of the contributors here went to college. The price of a car has also risen dramatically. In the 80s, $50k would have bought one a Ferrari of their choice. Now a well-equipped Jeep Grand Cherokee is easily that much. Kind of hard to justify spending money on an overpriced car and gas, when a bachelor’s degree needed for a 60k a year job is $200000.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Automobile ownership and use is simply a function of wealth. We are declining as a nation and so have relatively less of it. The power and money has shifted from the individual to the state.

    • 0 avatar
      Kinosh

      I disagree with this. Automobile usage is inversely correlated with wealth. Higher income=less driving (albeit with weak correlation).

      The link below is to the latest PIRG Report examining driving trends.

      http://www.uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/Moving_Off_the_Road_USPIRG.pdf

      • 0 avatar
        JD23

        That’s not correct. I assume you’re referring to the plot on page 9, which shows per-capita miles driven decreasing with the median household income of a state. However, this plot conflates state median household income with population density and the proportion of the population living in urban areas, rendering it meaningless.

        The plot on page 10, however, shows the number of miles driven increasing significantly with income until it levels off for incomes above $50,000 per year. This plot shows precisely the opposite of what you are arguing.

        • 0 avatar
          Kinosh

          I read this pdf a few days ago. Unfortunately it won’t load for me right now.

          I remember that, however. I think it’s interesting driving decreases as median state household income goes up, but individual driving trends do the opposite.

          Perhaps the highest earning areas (Northeast Corridor?) are also the heaviest transit users?

          • 0 avatar
            JD23

            The first plot illustrates that the wealthier states are generally more densely populated, reducing the average driving distance, whereas many of the poorer states are rural and have long average driving distances. In special cases, such as NYC, DC and Boston, the practicality and prevalence of public transportation will result in high-income being correlated with a very low rate of driving.

            The second plot is more useful when trying to establish a causal relationship between income and driving habits. It could be argued that during the economic downturn, a larger portion of the population is falling below the $50,000 income threshold and into the region where driving habits are highly sensitive to cost, reducing the total number of miles driven.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        As a nation’s weath increases, automobile usage increases and as a nation declines, automobile usage declines. We are just following the European countries.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Labor force participation rates have been falling since 2000. (In other words, the percentage of the population ages 16-65 with a job has been falling.) This appears to be part of a broader demographic trend that isn’t tied directly to economic cycles, but however you explain it, that trend calls for reduced driving among the working age population.

    The Hispanic population is also increasing (16.3% in 2010 vs. 12.5% in 2000), and commuting studies show that Hispanics are less likely to drive solo. Presumably, that’s largely a matter of economics — they need to carpool or take mass transit because driving alone is expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      It’s not always economic reasons for Hispanics to fill the car. I have lived all over, but mostly in Houston. I am related to Hispanics, dated Hispanics, had Hispanic best friends, etc. Many of them, especially the lesser assimilated, are simply more social and family oriented than the average of other Americans. They could win the lotto, have two cars per driver, and would still choose to go together. It’s not just the money, it’s cultural. They would rather go together and be together.

  • avatar
    flameded

    Let’s not forget that in the internet age, people don’t HAVE TO leave the house as much to get things. Just order online and have it delivered..and for less.

    also The Economy.
    and Technology. There’s more to do without leaving the house. In the good ol days, you had to actually leave the house if you wanted to meet a person. Nowadays, you can just visit a dating site, set it all up before even leaving the house. BAM! right to the bedroom. How many miles would you have to drive in 1962 before you “scored”?
    :)

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The US is no longer an economic powerhouse growing at the rate it did in post World War II. Cars are no longer the status symbol they were in the 50′s, 60′s, and 70′s. Many keep their cars and trucks till they literally fall apart either for economic reasons or they are not as interested in cars. Cars and trucks last much longer and have much longer maintenance intervals. Many of the younger generation view cars more like appliances and are not into vehicles determining status. There are few unique auto designs and many look very similar. Honestly I have actually changed my views toward what is important to me in a car and truck. Reliability, efficiency, comfort,safety, and utility are more what I am interested in. I expect to get at least 10 years and 200k out of all my vehicles, whether I keep a vehicle at 200k since I drive less I will keep them at least 10 years. It has become less important to buy a new vehicle unless I absolutely need one or if it better fits my lifestyle, but not on looks or having the latest thing. Honestly I have become to view my vehicles as more appliance like and value that type of reliability.


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