A Multi-Scalar Model to Identify the Causes of Decreased Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in the United States

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 VMT," 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 VMT 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. The research project outlined in this proposal will work to fill this significant knowledge gap by analyzing how factors impacting travel behavior have changed over time to determine which factor(s) are strongly connected to VMT reductions and therefore could be expected to have significant impacts into the future. To better inform U.S. transportation planners and policy-makers regarding Peak VMT, a multi-scale, multi-step suite of empirical models is proposed to determine the fundamental socioeconomic changes occurring that are responsible for Peak VMT. Research findings will provide a better understanding to transportation planners regarding recent travel trends and will better inform them in making future planning decisions.

  • Record URL:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Contract to a Performing Organization has not yet been awarded.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $198342.00
  • Contract Numbers:



  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Research and Innovative Technology Administration

    University Transportation Centers Program
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Start Date: 20131001
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20180930
  • Source Data: RiP Project 39339

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01557841
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: New England University Transportation Center
  • Contract Numbers: DTRT13-G-UTC31, UCNR25-31
  • Files: UTC, RiP
  • Created Date: Mar 26 2015 1:01AM