Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About VMT Trends

Robert Puentes and Adie Tomer have a report out from Brookings that’s just chock full of data about “vehicle-miles traveled” trends in the United States with basically no policy prescriptions. Here’s one chart:

I think this shows that the short-term response of driving behavior to gas price increases is very small, because things are just located where they are. But the long term impact of sustained increases looks quite a bit greater, because over time businesses and individuals have the ability to change things up based on new expectations about fuel prices. It’s worth noting that this decline has taken place even in the absence of policies like congestion pricing, carbon pricing, and pay-as-you-drive car insurance all of which would create incentives for people to think harder about their VMTs. Even more remarkably, we haven’t seen much in terms of serious efforts to either legalize denser construction or to build serious new transit networks — the kind of things that would open up meaningful alternative ways of getting around.