Updating peak travel


For the last few years, I’ve posted about the phenomenon of “peak travel“, or, more accurately, peak auto travel.  Recent news about the Met Council’s decennial Travel Behavior Inventory reminded me, it’s VMT data release time at MNDOT!  Time to update the peak travel meme!  Before we get to that, a quote from Minnpost on the TBI:

The Travel Behavior Inventory Report released this month by the Metropolitan Council found that despite population growth, total car use fell in the last decade, from 7.7 million trips every weekday to 6.3 million.

The study, which is conducted every 10 years, found transit usage rose between 2000 and 2010 to 3.2 percent of trips, up from 2.5 percent.

The faltering economy and high gas prices over the past few years likely were factors in both trends, says Mark Filipi, manager of technical planning support for Metropolitan Transportation Services.

The report concludes that an increase in telecommuting also contributed to the drop in car trips; 33 percent of workers in the region work outside the office at least monthly.

Still, the “actual significant decline” in what transportation planners call “trip making” was a surprise, Filipi says. Until 2000, there was a continuous increase in the number of trips made daily – a progression that began in the 1940s when women began joining the workforce in large numbers.

So auto use is down in the metro.  What about the state?  Well, for the first time since 2006, vehicle miles actually increased in Minnesota in 2012, according to MNDOT estimates.  Growth was small, 0.61%, but I think that’s significant after five straight years of decline.

So peak travel is busted?  Not so fast.

Vehicle miles traveled per capita (per person), continued it’s decline, dropping 0.8% in 2012.  It’s been dropping since 2007.  Minnesota’s population grew by 0.69% from 2011 to 2012, according to the state demographer.

While I haven’t dug in to freeway versus non-freeway for the whole state, I have tracked Minneapolis VMT since 2001.  While total VMT in Minneapolis rose significantly in 2012 (3.4%), non-freeway VMT declined half a percent.  Minneapolis VMT per capita also dropped, but annual population estimates for Minneapolis tend to be pretty wacky.


Without a few more years of significant increases in VMT, I’d say peak travel is alive and well.  Your city’s mileage may vary (ha ha), but don’t forget to check your stats before you go to your next public meeting about local road reconstruction.

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2 Responses to Updating peak travel

  1. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell October 31, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Fun stuff. Any thoughts on what role increased bicycling and walking for transportation played?


  1. Joe Urban » Blog Archive » Minnehaha Avenue – Compromise, Frustration and Grudging Acceptance (Maybe I’ll Take My Kids Fishing Instead) - November 1, 2013

    […] concerned a nice new street with left turn lanes will encourage even more car traffic. Maybe we have reached peak travel. Yes, trends are that traffic has been reduced overall since 2000 on the combined Hiawatha and […]

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