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Is driving in decline in U.S. & Europe?

October 2, 2012

Patrick Emerson PhD ,
OSU Economist
Oregon Economics Blog

The economist has a nifty little discussion about the decline of the car in high income countries.  Here are two provocative graphs:

The first is a bit of an awkward stat: if folks are buying more cars the amount of work each has to do would presumably decline.  But the economist assures us that the trend remains if you look at total distance, distance per driver or total trips made. Also true is the fact that the youngsters are driving less: what once was a right of passage in the US is no longer – the percentage of teens with a driving license has declined dramatically since the early eighties (whew!).   On the other hand, older folks are driving in greater proportion (watch out!).  (Maybe road safety is a wash….)

All this makes me think of the criticism of the new streetcar line and the new MAX line – perhaps it is all justified, but the urban world in changing and the more we credibly commit to transit (read: fixed route transit) the more we may see such long term shifts in habits.  I am not ready to subscribe to this line of thinking but I am willing to consider it.

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