Chart of the Day: US Vehicle Distance Travelled, October

Via City Observatory, here’s a chart that shows a great proxy for the annual VMT (or vehicle miles travelled). It’s pretty self-explanatory.

For many years, almost since the year 2000, VMT (the total amount of driving in the country) was at a plateau. With low gas prices and a booming economy, that’s changed. The country has reverted back to the “inexorable growth” pattern it’s had for most of the last century.

Here’s  Joe Cortright’s description of the chart:

After more than a decade of moderation in driving (motivated largely by high gas prices), driving in the US started increasing again when oil prices collapsed in 2014.  Data from the US Department of Transportation trace a clear uptick in driving in the past three years.

Keep in mind that population growth has been occurring in the country as well. And obviously this is at a big scale. I suspect VMT trends might be more nuanced or complicated in urban areas.

See also: these other VMT charts.

7 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: US Vehicle Distance Travelled, October

  1. Hannah PritchardHannah Pritchard

    The per capita VMT graph shows a much less drastic increase. However, that graph was absolutely plummeting. The per capita high was about 10,100 in 2003 and the low was around 9,450 in 2011-2013. A swing of 650 miles/year doesn’t sound like a lot. But, there are over 200 million drivers, so to have an AVERAGE change that much is kind of a big deal.

    Of course, by 2015 we were back up to 9,700 so the per capita value IS coming back up. I should do a post with my per capita charts (and update for 2016 & 2017 numbers), huh?

  2. Bob Roscoe

    I don’t pay attention to the VMT by my wife Sally and me, but two years ago we went from two Minicoopers to one. I expected we would be actually at 1 1/2 cars, using Uber. I estimated 4 Uber rides a week would still not equal our savings in car insurance. In the two years I’ve ubered maybe 10 times, and Sally has 2 or 3 times.

    I use my Marin bike to get me to the Green line 12 blocks away. Every day Sally and I decide who is using our car for various trips. She usually wins on a one to one vote. I have no problems meeting my architectural clients away from my home office.

    I think the takeaway here is that by consciously planning car use and riding the Green line or the Blue Line, our VMTs are significantly less than when we had two cars.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      We should really get rid of our second car, especially now that we’re both working downtown and primarily riding the bus (or me biking when the weather cooperates). It used so little that we wouldn’t miss it, except that it’s my sporty car from my bachelor days, so…

      1. Bob Roscoe

        Too bad The Car Guys from NPR are no longer on the air to give you the right car advice that they would make sure you would be happier for it. And if you are catholic, this is nothing to bring up in the confessional.

  3. Bbb

    So basically people don’t see much value in driving a car. If they did , they would still drive the same instead of cutting back. Which says the subsides given could be cut back and people would be ok.

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