Has driving peaked?

The Morning News notes the trend of fewer vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in the US.

All across the country, Americans began driving fewer miles on average as far back as 2005, and they may have crested as early as 2002, according to a national study by the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“As a nation, we may be reaching a saturation point in terms of just how many miles each American driver can tolerate,” said Adie Tomer, a co-author of the report and a research analyst with Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program. “We may have actually reached a peak.”

Long before gas prices began shooting up in 2008, per capita miles driven in many of the nation’s 100 biggest cities had begun slowing, the report says. Drivers logged fewer miles in 2006 than in 2002 in 26 of the 100 cities. Since 2006, the trend has accelerated, according to the report.

Nowhere has it been more noticeable than in some of Texas’ fastest-growing cities, including Dallas, Houston and especially Austin, where per capita miles driven fell 12 percent, the biggest decline among the top 100 metro areas in the country.

I’ve blogged about this before. The story discusses Dallas’ mass transit system, in particular its rail lines, and its trend towards suburban office parks, which has helped reduce the commute lengths for folks living outside the urban core, as the main factors in Dallas’ decline in VMT. For Houston, which has a much smaller rail system right now, the latter plus an increase in park-and-ride usage is likely the cause, though the story doesn’t get into it. The report is here (PDF, link via Yglesias) if you want to explore it in more detail.

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