It could be recession. It could be that the middle class is paring back. It could be a change in attitudes. Either way, it’s happening, and if it continues over the next few years, will be a trend:
“When adjusted for population growth, the number of miles driven in the United States peaked in 2005 and dropped steadily thereafter, according to an analysis by Doug Short of Advisor Perspectives, an investment research company. As of April 2013, the number of miles driven per person was nearly 9 percent below the peak and equal to where the country was in January 1995. Part of the explanation certainly lies in the recession, because cash-strapped Americans could not afford new cars, and the unemployed weren’t going to work anyway. But by many measures the decrease in driving preceded the downturn and appears to be persisting now that recovery is under way. The next few years will be telling.
‘What most intrigues me is that rates of car ownership per household and per person started to come down two to three years before the downturn,’ said Michael Sivak, who studies the trend and who is a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. ‘I think that means something more fundamental is going on.’”