19 January 2010

The Immobility of the Traffic Commons

Interesting that its driver frustration over wasted time and costs rather than greenhouse emissions that is - pardon the pun - the driving factor getting people out of their cars...

'The car promised mobility, and in a largely rural United States it delivered. But with four out of five Americans now living in cities, the growth in urban car numbers at some point provides just the opposite: immobility.' - Earth Policy Institute

Reposted in full from Warmer Bulletin, 15 January 2010

'America's century-long love affair with the car may be coming to an end.

The Earth Policy Institute reports that between 1950 and 2008 more cars were added to our roads virtually every year as the total fleet expanded steadily from 49 million to 250 million vehicles. In 2009, however, 14 million cars were scrapped while only 10 million cars were sold, shrinking the fleet by 4 million vehicles, or nearly 2 percent.

With record numbers of cars set to reach retirement age between now and 2020, the fleet could shrink by some 10 percent, dropping from the all-time high of 250 million in 2008 to 225 million in 2020.

The United States, with 246 million motor vehicles and 209 million licensed drivers, is facing market saturation. With 5 vehicles for every 4 drivers, the 4-million-vehicle contraction in the US fleet in 2009 does not come as a great surprise.In a largely rural society, more cars provided mobility, but in a society that is now over 80 percent urban, more cars provide immobility.

A combination of driver frustration and the soaring congestion costs associated with wasted time and fuel are leading to a cultural shift that is reducing the role of the automobile as people turn to alternatives.

Almost every major US city is either building new light rail or express bus systems, or expanding and upgrading existing ones to reduce dependence on cars. The peak fleet may now be behind us.

The number of US teenage drivers has declined from a peak of 12 million in 1978 to 10 million today, dropping the share of driving-age teenagers with licenses from 69 percent to 56 percent. An increasing number of Americans are growing up in urban environments in families without a car. This trend, combined with a shift in socialization habits among young people away from cars to the Internet and smart phones, means that the car no longer holds the allure of years past.'

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, interesting. What I get out of this is that since people have been conditioned to car use for so long, the notion of the cost/benefit between car vs. no car isn't even there. Hypothetically, maybe it's like if we had the option to fly but we never really tried it. Even if it got us where we wanted to faster and it was more fun, we probably wouldn't think about it because culturally it never occured to us.

    Increased frustration with driving is relatively new, so people have noticed it more?


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