Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)
peaked in the US in 2007

Three dollar a gallon gasoline ended the traffic growth, four dollar a gallon gasoline caused an overall decline in VMT.

related page: VMT Mileage Taxes on the J. Edgar Hoover Memorial Highway

Traffic levels are still high, and some roads may still see increases for a while, but total VMT is slightly past peak. This national pattern is echoed in State and County transportation statistics. Note that Peak Traffic preceded the peak of petroleum pricing in 2008 and did not resume traffic growth when the price dropped afterwards. Economic "recession" kept traffic levels from rising above the 2007 peak even as oil prices dropped.

The Post Carbon Institute is one of the few organizations that has acknowledged Peak Traffic and its obvious relationship to energy prices (and peak energy).
Peak VMT - Are Americans Kissing Their Gas Goodbye?

Most environmental groups have avoided this, since few focus on Peak Anything. A few environmental groups have mentioned Peak VMT but claim it happened because of proactive environmental choices -- which presumes nearly everyone in the country supports ecological behaviors, which would be nice if it was true.

The current dip is not temporary, it is more like climate change, a permanent shift in the way things work.


National VMT

USA Peak VMT monthly 1970 to 2014


US Department of Transportation - Bureau of Transportation Statistics

chart about "Peak Traffic" (the BTS doesn't use that term), excludes trucks and motorcycles (the reason it differs from the chart above)



Vehicle Miles Traveled Highway miles (millions) Percent change from same month previous year
Jun-06 261,657 -0.71
Jun-07 260,340 -0.50 august_2007/html/highway_vehicle_miles_traveled.html

traffic levels vary through the year
(there is more driving in the summer than the winter)



California VMT

note that the 1973 to 1974 decrease (due to the Saudi oil embargo) was a smaller percentage decline than the 2007 to 2008 decrease due to fuel price increases as we reached peak conventional oil


Maryland VMT

Maryland VMT Peaked in 2007

source: 2014 annual attainment report on transportation system performance CTP_14_19/1_Final_CTP_Documents/2014_Attainment_Report_1_8_2014FINAL.pdf


Oregon VMT

1973: dip due to Saudi oil embargo
1979: dip due to gas lines after Iranian revolution
2002: peak traffic on Oregon highways

graphic from



Portland, Oregon VMT

Portland VMT peaked in 2002


Eugene, Springfield, Lane County, Oregon VMT

Drivers cut back by 30B miles
By Larry Copeland and Paul Overberg, USA TODAY

Americans drove 22 billion fewer miles from November through April than during the same period in 2006-07, the biggest such drop since the Iranian revolution led to gasoline supply shortages in 1979-80.

The numbers released Wednesday may reflect more than a temporary attitude change in consumers toward high gas prices, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said. Previously, she said, "people might change their pattern for a short period of time, but it almost always bounced back very quickly. We're not seeing that now."

The decline in total miles traveled, though only 1%, means that many drivers are cutting back far more because the number of drivers and vehicles grows by 1% to 2% a year. Americans are driving about the same number of miles as in 2005, when the USA had 8 million fewer people, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Federal Highway Administration data. The declines are sharpest on rural roads, indicating that people are cutting back on long-distance and vacation trips.

"It's not a blip," said Marilyn Brown, professor of energy policy at Georgia Tech, citing data showing surging transit ridership, dropping sales of sport-utility vehicles and sharply increased demand for gas-efficient vehicles. "I think the difference between now and 1979, when prices were comparable when you adjust for inflation, is there's a sense of sustained pain. There's a sense that the era of cheap energy is a thing of the past."

Among potential impacts of Americans driving less:

•Drivers might notice "some reduction" in traffic congestion, said Tim Lomax of the Texas Transportation Institute. "But over several months, the typical commuter will adjust their driving patterns," he said. "If they normally leave at 6 a.m., they might find they're getting to work without congestion, so they'll say, 'I'm going to spend an extra 15 minutes sleeping or reading the paper and leave at 6:15.' You get enough people doing that and you're back to congestion."

•Housing patterns could change as more people buy houses closer to work or find jobs closer to home, Lomax said. "We might not be seeing so much of that right now since so many people are upside down on home loans because of the mortgage crisis," he said.

•A shift in the way the nation pays for roads, bridges and transit. As people drive less, the federal Highway Trust Fund — derived from gasoline and diesel taxes — is receiving billions less, Peters said. She's promoting tolling and making drivers pay more during peak hours.

David Snyder, 40, an engineer in Internet operations at Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta, is moving from suburban Alpharetta to a new project near downtown. "It costs more than $60 a week in gas, and that's not including parking," Snyder says of his current costs. "That's this week. It might be $75 by next week."
As gas goes up, driving goes down

(CNN) -- At a time when gas prices are at an all-time high, Americans have curtailed their driving at a historic rate.
The Department of Transportation said figures from March show the steepest decrease in driving ever recorded.
Compared with March a year earlier, Americans drove an estimated 4.3 percent less -- that's 11 billion fewer miles, the DOT's Federal Highway Administration said Monday, calling it "the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history." Records have been kept since 1942.
According to AAA, for the first time since 2002, Americans said they were planning to drive less over the Memorial Day weekend than they did the year before.
Tracy and Adam Crews posted on iReport that their annual Memorial Day weekend has traditionally involved camping and fishing.
"Well, due to the continual rise in gas, we felt our only recourse was to nix the idea this year and stay home" in Jacksonville, Florida, they wrote.
Instead, the couple said they "decided to camp out in the backyard. We set the tent up, just finished installing our above ground pool, and cleaned up the grill. ... We have ourselves a campsite! It's been a blast!"
Nakeisha Easterwood of Smyrna, Georgia, said with gas prices on the rise, she sometimes catches rides with friends, and doesn't drive into town more than once a day. "It's crazy," she said.
According to AAA, the national average price for a gallon of regular gas rose to a record $3.936. That compares with an average price per gallon of $3.23 last Memorial Day.
"With it being near $4 a gallon, you definitely have to drive slower and pick and choose when you're going to do it," said Steve Kahn of Roswell, Georgia, at a Memorial Day festival in Atlanta.
Some Americans have turned to public transportation. Ridership increased by 2.1 percent in 2007, in part because of rising gas prices, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
Americans took 10.3 billion trips on public transportation in 2007, the highest level in 50 years, the group said.
The Energy Information Administration says gas consumption for the first three months of 2008 is estimated to be down about 0.6 percent from the same time period in 2007.
For the summer season, gas consumption is expected to be down 0.4 percent from last year.