Doing research for the Parkway challenge ran into a fascinating and simpler explanation for the recent seven year plateau of car travel here in Vermont and across the nation. When viewed from travel per person over age 16, the plateau extends to two decades long of no change--1997-2017. And that plateau likely slowly, inevitably, dips downward going forward for a number of reasons.This article last month by Jill Mislinski nails it by giving us a different reference point for discussion than the tired though once reliable century old data on US annual vehicle miles of travel changes.https://www.
advisorperspectives.com/ dshort/updates/2017/06/20/ vehicle-miles-traveled- another-look-at-our-evolving- behaviorBy looking at age adjusted (miles of vehicle for those 16 and over) you catch a number factors working against any increase in US/VT car travel which include but are not limited to: (1) first and foremost the growing proportion of seniors whose yearly car travel is about 40% less than non-seniors; (2) for Vermont it is not only senior growth but also declining non-senior population though somewhat lower in Chitteden County than elsewhere in the State; (3) over time the struggle to install safe walkable/bikable facilities in our cities will bear fruit and reduce car travel demand as a cross section of our population get to enjoy like many modern nations do today, safe walking and bicycling and walking urban areas; (4) ditto for public transit, particularly light and heavy rail; (5) perverse private and public incentives promoting sprawl will decline meaning greater densities; (6) global warming strategies as well as income inequality will force far higher taxation and pricing on gasoline and other nonrenewable energy--and over half Vermont petroleum gets consumed on the highway.
Viewing car travel through miles per year by the over 16 population is a much better signpost than simply total vehicle miles.