Peak travel

A study of eight industrialized countries, including the United States, shows that seemingly inexorable trends – ever more people, more cars and more driving – came to a halt in the early years of the 21st century, well before the recent escalation in fuel prices. It could be a sign, researchers said, that the demand for travel and the demand for car ownership in those countries has reached a saturation point…

Most of the eight countries in the study have experienced declines in miles traveled by car per capita in recent years. The U.S. appears to have peaked at an annual 8,100 miles by car per capita, and Japan is holding steady at 2,500 miles.

Here is more.


My family is at about 5,000 per capita for a family of 4.

"United States, Canada, Sweden, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia"

Notice anything missing?

Oil prices have been rising since the mid '90s. You have to take that general rise into account, not just the drastic leaps of the mid '00s.

Let me get this straight: people driving less and owning fewer cars "could be a sign" of reduced demand for travel, according to researchers? Do these same researchers think that the 2010 election results "could be a sign" that Republicans will do well at the polls?

cars are substitutable goods

i want my teletransporter; and i want it now!

So let me get this straight. Oil has been rising in price since 1998 after a decade-long low price plateau, and someone finds it remarkable that demand has gone down in countries already saturated with cars? Perhaps they could have checked an oil price chart first....

Google is your friend, dear researcher. (scroll to third chart for multi-year)

"seemingly inexorable trends — ever more people, more cars and more driving"

For the US, the "ever more people" part is true. Although most of the 1% annual growth rate is from immigration, it is nonetheless real. 1% per year does not seem like much, but it implies doubling the population every three generations. When the base is very large as in the US (300M), the absolute number of additional people added to the population every year is large. This growth, combined with policies that encourage sprawl and driving, has made congestion ever worse which in turn means that it takes longer and is less pleasant to drive a fixed distance which presumably discourages people from driving more.

As far as I can tell, the study is wrong, at least for private automobile travel in the US. Passenger-miles of automobile travel per capita has increased.

Year 2000:

Population: 282,171,957

Passenger-miles (cars + light trucks): 4,012,121 million

Passenger-miles per capita: 14,218

Year 2007:

Population: 301,579,895

Passenger-miles (cars + light trucks): 4,570,817 million

Passenger-miles per capita: 15,156


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