Earlier I talked about how March represented a dramatic drop in vehicle miles traveled, but that’s nothing compared to a recent report stating that Americans have cut back 30 billion miles over the last six months. The drop was measured between November 2007 - April 2008, and compared to the same period from a year ago. Overall the drop was only 1%, but compared to an annual increase of 1-2%, the difference from the norm is actually a bit bigger.
The drop is the largest it’s been since the fuel crisis of 1979-1980, and with fuel prices looking to stay high, may represent a permanent change in the way Americans think about travel. Here’s what USA Today has to say about the difference between now and the last fuel crisis (which I wasn’t alive for!):
“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.”
This comes amid a flurry of TV, magazine, and newspaper stories about people hopping on the bike, moving closer to work, and dumping their gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs at any cost. My experience with change in the US would suggest that the news is exaggerating the reality of the situation, but these new, hard numbers suggest that isn’t the case at all. Even though some aren’t changing their habits at all, enough are doing it to make the largest drop we’ve seen in decades.
Do you think it’ll last?