Thursday, July 30th, 2015
02:00 PM - 03:00 PM
Storrs CampusAust 163
The Geography of the New Era of Travel in the United States: A Multi-Scalar Model to Identify the Causes of Decreased Vehicle Miles Traveled
Decades of growth in overall and per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) led many to believe that the amount of driving would increase indefinitely. In the mid-2000’s, driving levels in the U.S. and other developed countries peaked and began to decline. The phenomenon, referred to as “peak travel,”, “peak car” and referred to here as “peak car travel,” is occurring in places with very different layouts, densities and demographics, suggesting a fundamental shift in travel behavior. Simultaneously, after 70 years of concurrent growth, the extent to which VMT and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are correlated is decreasing; showing that the relationship between the two may be changing. While factors such as population aging, a decline of young drivers, demand saturation and preference shifts all contribute to reduced VMT at one time or another or in one place or another, there is no clear explanation as to why peak car travel is occurring in such a widespread manner, on multiple scales, and in a diversity of places. This knowledge gap creates significant challenges for policymakers tasked with planning and building transportation systems that promote livable communities. Without a firm understanding of recent trends, it is nearly impossible to develop worthwhile travel predictions to guide decision-making processes. This dissertation works to fill this significant knowledge gap by analyzing peak car travel patterns at the state level, specifically as it relates to the relationship between driving levels, economic indicators and other factors known to affect travel behavior. Research findings provide a better understanding to transportation planners and policymakers regarding recent travel trends and will better inform them in making planning decisions that reflect current travel demands.