By Micheline Maynard
The Curbing Cars project is looking at one of the biggest changes in North American society in the past century: rethinking our use of automobiles.
We’re starting with an ebook. You can help by making a pledge to our Kickstarter. We’ve already heard from almost 50 people who believe in what we’re doing.
But maybe you aren’t familiar with what’s happening beyond your community. You’ve never rented a Zipcar, or taken a ride on a Citi Bike. As for walking to the office, that’s not going to happen.
Over the next few days, we’ll talk about the 10 Big Transportation Ideas we’re exploring at Curbing Cars. That will help you get a handle on our work, and understand how significantly things are changing.
1) People are driving less.
According to a new University of Michigan study, the number of miles driven in the United States is down 5 percent since it peaked in 2006. The average miles driven per driver, the average distance, and the number of vehicle driven per vehicle are all down.Many people think the drop in driving is a result of the recession. And it’s certainly a big cause. A recent survey showed that people have recovered only 40 percent of the wealth they have lost since 2008.
But Michigan researcher Michael Sivak says the decline in driving predates the recession by about four years. That means even when the country was in good financial condition, people already were thinking about cutting back on their automotive use.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, many states have enacted restrictions on teen driving (more on that in a separate post). That immediately means fewer people behind the wheel. Second, gasoline prices have bounced around $4 gallon for much of the past few years.
While some people simply make adjustments in other parts of their spending to account for gas, others have made permanent decisions to drive fewer miles.
Another big factor: telecommuting. Some of us have worked from home for years. Others just started doing in when they lost their jobs in the recession and started over from home businesses. Or, their companies closed satellite offices and asked them to work from home (Yahoo being an exception).
The drop in driving is the single- most important factor in our research, and it will have implications on North America for years to come.
Next: How Teens’ Disinterest In Driving Is Making A Difference