Last week, the New York Times ran a really interesting chart that compared gas prices with the number of miles driven over time.
In 1956, the average person drover less than 4,000 miles per year and gas was abut $2.40 a gallon.
In 2005, with gas at $2.50 a gallon, the average person was driving more than 10,000 miles per year.
However, since 2005, as gas prices have remained over $2.50 a gallon, the number of miles driven has steadily declined. The number of miles driven right now is at its lowest point since 1998.
There has never been such a pro-longed cut in the number of miles driven, and the only times even short cuts in driving have occurred has have all coincided with sharp increases in gas prices.
So why bother posting this?
Well, for starters, I think it's interesting, but I also think there is something else more interesting happening here.
People are starting to drive less. Yes, gas prices are driving this to some degree -- but note how growth in driving decreased from 1998-2003, even though the economy was good for a large part of that time and gas prices were relatively low. People are moving back to cities. After an entire generation of people moving out to the suburbs, people are starting to enjoy urban living, living close to work, restaurants and cultural activities. And with high gas prices, this is sure to continue.
So what's this mean? After years of spending countless resources on roads, we need to start changing spending priorities, including bike lanes for bikers (which is more doable when people live close to work), more pedestrian friendly sidewalks and neighborhoods and better public transit. Knowing how things are changing and how people are living differently is important in determining spending priorities.