Recent data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that driving patterns, measured by Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), are back to their highest level since 2007. That’s true. Unlike Western Europe and parts of Asia, the U.S. is a growing country. We’ve added over 29 million people since 2000, and 7 million people since 2007 alone. So one would expect driving to increase, too. What is interesting to note is that combining the growth in VMT and population shows a per capita driving rate that is not growing and, in fact, is pretty much at the same level as it was in 2000. See the chart below.
Overall, there are many complex reasons for the plateauing of per capita driving and multiple signs that these rates could continue. It is also impossible to predict innovations and future national and international events that could strongly influence American driving patterns in the future (the wholesale introduction of super fuel-efficient vehicles, or continued unrest in oil-producing countries like Libya, for example). Nevertheless, we need to recognize these fundamental changes to American driving habits and update our transportation plans and programs accordingly.