Chart of the Day: Climbing “Mount Auto”

Here’s a chart from the new book by writers David Levinson and Kevin Krizek called “The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport,” all about trends that are changing how we think about transportation. I managed to get my hands on an (appropriately electronic) copy of it, and it’s full of great charts.

Here’s one from the first chapter, about the decline in driving in America from what the call “the peak of Mount Auto” (opposed against transit use):


And here’s one more, for good measure, showing the “total time spent traveling”:


As the authors describe, there is some debate over whether this driving plateau is permanent. But they suggest that it’s rooted in a large culture and demographic shift. Here’s a quote:

Many people say the peak is similar to what happened to fixed route transit service in the US (which is now well below one-fifth of its previous importance as described in see Chapter 9). Others claim it is a brief hiatus from the steady march of increasing per capita vehicle travel that followed the same drumbeat almost continuously from 1910 to 2000. Some call the recent patterns of vehicle travel ‘trendlets.’ Many attribute the decline to the pattern to the simultaneous tanking of the US economy; these are the same people who embrace the roaring comeback of total travel in 2014 and 2015, which in terms of total travel (though not per capita) is reaching new heights, due to low unemployment and low gas prices.

But what went largely unrealized was that travel began dropping before the economy tanked. These same people suggest per capita vehicle travel would pick up on its upward path based on the previous century—a forecast possibly reminiscent of the proverbial ostrich with its sand-encased head.

The book is accessible and wide-ranging, looking at everything from transit to road pricing to self-driving cars to bicycling. Check out the rest here.


Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.