Photo: Flickr, CC
Relatively Fewer Car Trips
Data from the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) for 2009 contains some encouraging transportation trends when compared to the previous survey done in 2001. It shows that the share of trips that Americans made using cars dropped by more than 4%, and this decline was compensated in about equal part by increases in walking and cycling, and by public transit. What does this mean?
Photo: Flickr, CC
The recessions has obviously had a big impact on the number of trips and miles driven by Americans, but this data is not looking at absolute number of trips, only at the share of those trips that each mean of transportation took.
We can speculate that there are temporary factors that can explain part of this: Many people who could previously afford a car cannot anymore and switched to transit, or they still had a car, but they simply stayed home because they didn't have a job anymore.
But there are also longer-term trends that also contribute: Higher fuel prices are not going away anytime soon because of the thirst for oil of developing countries, and infrastructure improvements are making it easier to walk and cycle. Many U.S. cities have added bike paths and made existing ones safer, attracting more cyclists, and transit improvements (Seattle's new light-rail, for example) are also attracting new ridership.
The end of the recession might mean that the share of car trips will bounce back a little, but long-term trends in oil prices and improvements in infrastructures will, hopefully, keep the momentum going in the direction of a less car-centric society.
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