|Diverging driving trends in urban (red) and rural (blue) areas. Image Credit: Slate.com|
After a 10-year decline that began in 2004, American’s are returning to the road. In the last three years, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) have risen by more than 2 percent annually. We are driving as much (per person) as we were in 2000 and the rate is rising. However this trend is not occurring uniformly. VMT on rural roads has declined, while VMT on urban roads has increased over the same period. This has created a clear divergence that cannot be explained by population growth in urbanized areas alone. One additional explanation might be that as the fringes of urban areas bleed into rural areas, existing rural roads are reclassified as urban, causing an increase in “urban drivers” without a corresponding increase in urban residents. However this reclassification is likely only one piece of a larger puzzle. For more information, check out Henry Grabar’s article on Slate.