We really are at peak car

Woman using phone
CC BY 2.0 Mo Riza

The US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) provides even more proof that Americans have fallen out of love with their cars. They summarize it in their new study, Transportation in Transition:

From 2006 to 2011, the average number of miles driven per resident fell in almost three-quarters of America’s largest urbanized areas for which up-to-date and accurate data are available. Most urbanized areas have also seen increases in public transit use and bicycle commuting and decreases in the share of households owning a car.

© PIRG

Whenever we talk about this, about the fact that young people are not as interested in driving as previous generations were, lots of people say "yeah right, it's the economy, stupid, the slackers don't have jobs." In fact, the study shows that this isn't true.

Variations in the economy do not appear to be responsible for variations in the trends in driving among urbanized areas. In fact, the economies of urbanized areas with large declines in driving have been less affected by the recession according to unemployment and poverty indicators.

Kaid Benfied at NRDC Switchboard concludes that we have to reallocate resources to reflect the trends.

Especially because the new report is consistent with a multitude of information showing changes in living patterns and lifestyle preferences, we should shift more public resources into transit, to keep up with and strengthen the trends toward more sustainable modes of transportation.... We need to evolve our communities so that they become more suited to alternative modes, including walking and bicycling as well as transit, so that more Americans have more choices. And, where options do exist, we need to support and maintain them better in order to reduce carbon emissions, other forms of pollution, and automobile-dependent land uses.

© PIRG

The PIRG study concludes with much the same thing, suggesting that our governments should:

  • Revisit transportation plans. Many existing transportation plans continue to reflect outdated assumptions that the number of miles driven will continue to rise steadily over time. Officials at all levels should revisit transportation plans to ensure that they reflect recent declines in driving and new understandings of the future demand for travel.
  • Reallocate resources. With driving stagnating in many areas and demand for transit, bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure increasing, officials should reallocate resources away from wasteful highway expansion projects and toward system repair and programs that expand the range of transportation options available to Americans.
  • Remove barriers to non-driving transportation options. In many areas, planning and zoning laws and transportation funding rules limit public officials’ ability to expand access to transportation choices. Officials at all levels should remove these barriers and ensure access to funding for non-driving forms of transportation.

Unfortunately, this will all be called The War on the Car. In fact, it's the future.

Tags: Bike-Friendly World | Transportation

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