Chart of the Day: Future VMT Scenarios

If you saw yesterday’s chart that disaggregated the falling vehicle miles travelled (VMT) according to type of vehicle, here’s another compelling chart that shows potential future VMT trends, from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. (Note: very official!)

vmt projections

The report (which is very wonky, by the way) has a range of scenarios from “tech triumph” all the way to “global chaos.” Here’s a taste:


In any case, the report suggests that VMT is going to be decreasing (probably significantly) in our lifetimes. It’s something to keep in mind when discussing freeway expansion, road maintenance, or infrastructure investments.

[Via the State Smart Transportation Initiative.]

6 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Future VMT Scenarios

  1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Gentle Footprint is already sort of happening—in Harmony, MN with the Amish.

    I’d guess the Momentum line is the most likely. Online shopping will continue to replace driving to stores, we’ll see a return to more local neighborhood shopping instead of driving out to big-box places, and increasing numbers of people will move in to more dense walkable/bikeable urban type areas (which could be a Local Urban Village in the suburbs) so that they don’t have to drive so much for every single thing.

  2. Monte Castleman

    Is this report actual data or liberal fantasy? Does this assume that conservatives are completely out of the picture and the only government parties are strong liberals and even stronger liberals to mandate policies like the last option?

    I don’t disagree that there’s a trend towards the cities and away from cars for younger people, but I’m not sure that’s it’s going to last. Maybe the children of the Millenials that are now moving to the city will be tired of small apartments and the noise and activity and want the space of the suburbs and the freedom of always having a car at their disposal that their grandparents had. Maybe for those that still commute a self-driving car would make a commute from a hobby farm by Zumbrota attractive if they could sit back and sleep or play games. Maybe battery cars are finally practical so gasoline prices aren’t an issue.

    I don’t see consumerism decreasing either. Seems young people are just as nuts about the newest iPhone as their elders.

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

      I had the same reaction, but this report comes from some very professional seeming institutions, i.e. the transportation research board. Dive into some of those links I put up there and see for yourself.

    2. Nathanael

      It’ll last. Two points:
      (1) The urbanization trend is a trend which is older than the Industrial Revolution; the “car based suburbia” trend is a bizarre anomaly.
      (2) Cars suck in cities. Cars are pretty darn nice out in the countryside, but they suck in cities. People want their streetcar systems back. I’m not sure why people allowed them to be ripped out in the car-crazy 20s and 50s — many people *did* protest — but that was the aberration. Even people who live outside the city, own cars, and drive in will generally prefer to park their car once and ride trains when running errands around town.
      (3) I’m pretty sure there will still be people who live on hobby farms and commute to the city, but the percentage who actually like rural living is small — 20% or less of the population — and has always been small.
      (4) The “space” of the suburbs is an illusion. The outdoor space is wasted on 80% of people; so for that 80%, the gain is just “bigger houses”. But it’s possible to get bigger houses in cities too (multi-story rowhouses can be quite big, and it’s easy to build mansion apartments).

      From looking at property values, it seems like the “streetcar suburb” and the “rowhouse” city neighborhoods have remained consistently attractive throughout the entire auto era (perhaps because each has an element of ‘have your cake and eat it too’). Both used to be bastions of conservatives — there’s no reason to believe that conservatives will continue to be car fanatics.

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