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US total VMT hits historic high in first half of year; VMT per capita trending upward, but below 2005 peak

23 August 2015

US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates show that US driving topped 1.54 trillion miles in the first half of 2015, beating the previous record of 1.5 trillion miles, set in June 2007. This is more than double the amount driven during the same period in 1981, continuing a trend of America’s driving mileage doubling nearly every generation.

However, on a per capita basis (non-institutional population), VMT, although it has been trending upward for the last year on a 12-month moving average, is still below its peak in June 2005, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) database from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Fredgraph

The total VMT data, published in FHWA’s latest “Traffic Volume Trends” report, a monthly estimate of US road travel, show that 275.13 billion miles were driven last June, the most ever in June of any year and the highest VMT (vehicle miles traveled) for the first half of any year. According to FHWA’s report, total US driving has increased for 16 months in a row.

The June 2015 report also includes seasonally-adjusted data, which enable VMT comparisons with May or any other month in any year, from the USDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Analysis of seasonally-adjusted VMT is an alternative to analysis of unadjusted VMT, which traditionally uses comparisons of a month to the same month in previous years to determine trends.

The seasonally-adjusted vehicle miles traveled for June 2015 were 261.9 billion miles, a 3.4% increase—8.7 billion more VMT—compared to the previous June and a .1% decrease compared with May 2015. The estimates include passenger vehicle, bus and truck travel.

At 63.1 billion unadjusted VMT, the North Central region—12 states including North Dakota, Ohio and Missouri—was the most-traveled region for the month representing the seventh consecutive month of VMT growth. The Northeast, a region of nine states stretching from Pennsylvania to Maine, showed the smallest growth, rising only 1.1%, or 38.8 billion VMT, compared to the same month a year earlier.

At 10.8%, Hawaii led the nation with the largest unadjusted single-state traffic% increase compared to the same month a year earlier, followed by Colorado at 7.8% and Montana at 7.5%.

FHWA said that the new figures confirm the trends identified in “Beyond Traffic,” a USDOT report issued earlier this year, which projects a 43% increase in commercial truck shipments and population growth of 70 million by 2045. The report examines the trends and choices facing America’s transportation infrastructure over the next three decades, including a rapidly growing population, increasing freight volume, demographic shifts in rural and urban areas, and a transportation system that is facing more frequent extreme weather events. Increased gridlock nationwide can be expected unless changes are made in the near-term.

VMT data in FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” reports are based on information collected from more than 5,000 continuous count stations nationwide.

August 23, 2015 in Behavior, Market Background | Permalink | Comments (9)

Comments

I suppose the recent uptick is due to greatly reduced gasoline costs, on top of more efficient cars which further reduce the cost of driving.
It may end up being congestion that stops people driving (or reduces their mileage). This would especially be the case if electric cars with very low per mile costs become common.
There may be a trend for Gen-Y'ers living in cycberspace rather than the real world, but, if so, it has been swamped by lower gasoline costs (and more people at work).

What would really increase VMD would be fully autonomous cars (or minivans). In that case, a 2 hour commute would be no problem if you could work or sleep on the way to work. You could use a minivan as an office on wheels and work/drive from 9-5 every day. All you would need would be a coffee machine, toilet, laptop and phone (and a place for a photo of you loved ones or dog).

Improved VHS e-trains and driverless e-buses (large and small) could be very effective to reduce the number of vehicles on highways, roads and streets and reduce travel time.

These figures suggest people prefer road transport and cars. Policymakers must learn to respect that. Road construction will need to continue for some time after the world achieves population stability. IMO steady per capita economic growth will be adequate to maintain or improve the affordability of gasoline.

These figures may also reflect the high cost of living in a city. Around Denver, the only housing most households can qualify for is a long commute -- drive until you qualify. I think Mahonj is correct, congestion may be the only thing to stop the increase. Governments don't seem to be serious about increasing public transit -- too communist, I guess, or it may look like a tax.

Like James Kunstler wrote,
the suburb may have been one of our biggest mistakes.

Not as bad as lead in petrol.

They both rank right up there for stupid.

@SJC, Indeed.
Would you like to nominate any more
"really stupid, but well meaning things" ?
Lets avoid political things as it will degenerate quickly if we don't.

There are 4 basic modes of urban/suburban travel - cars/trucks, mass transit, walking and bicycling. The cars/trucks mode presents a severe impediment to the other modes and their own optimal function. All modes must function optimally or none function adequately. Moreover, walking, bicycling and mass transit depend upon land-use designated destinations closely located to home and neighborhood. The FHWA is corrupted by automobile-related business interests which profit from a "Transportation Monopoly" of driving as the only possible mode of travel, nevermind the impact and costs passed on to clueless, hapless consumers.

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