The industrialized world may have reached peak (auto) travel in the early 2000′s:
A study of eight industrialized countries, including the United States, shows that seemingly inexorable trends — ever more people, more cars and more driving — came to a halt in the early years of the 21st century, well before the recent escalation in fuel prices. It could be a sign, researchers said, that the demand for travel and the demand for car ownership in those countries has reached a saturation point.
According to the study, the US peak was about 8,100 miles per car per capita. How does Minnesota compare? According to MNDOT statistics, VMT per capita in Minnesota stopped growing in 2004, just one year after what the study defines as the national peak. Not only has VMT per capita stopped growing, but total VMT in Minnesota has been on the decline since 2007.
Although other countries have hit “peak travel” as well, the peak is not the same. The peak for Japan, for instance, was 2,500 miles per car per capita. So as the authors suggest, there must be other factors (gridlock, parking, gas prices) affecting demand. Or perhaps, as one commenter noted, there is nowhere new to go:
What’s the use of travelling anywhere when everywhere is the same? Same strip malls, big box stores, culture, etc. You get in a car, endure onerous expense, congestion, parking problems to arrive at — surprise! — the place that you left.