Fewer people at work, fewer people driving. It's a simple equation and one that a lot of experts pointed to as explanation for the notable drop in the total miles U.S. motorists clocked during the depths of the recession.
So, how to explain the fact that even as the economy finally is showing real signs of recovery the number of miles driven continues to decline. That report from the Federal Highway Administration is just the latest indication that Americans may be falling out of love with their automobiles.
In its report released this week, the agency said the number of vehicle miles traveled—VMT in the lingo of the transportation world—continued dropping during the first half of 2013. If the past were prologue, the numbers would have rebounded at least slightly to reflect the national rise in employment and income.
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In a study earlier this month, researchers from the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center found that the number of miles individuals are driving has been declining sharply in recent years. That figure peaked at an average 900 miles per month in July 2004. By July 2012, it was down to 820 a month, a figure the researchers hadn't seen since the final years of the last millennium.
"For almost 40 years, auto usage, as measured by vehicle miles traveled, closely tracked real gross domestic product. VMT dropped during the most recent recession, as it has during previous ones. But unlike after prior recessions, it still hasn't recovered," Volpe researchers Don Pickrell and David Pace said in the report.