This is the longest drop in miles driven since 1971.
While there have been other drops due to high gas prices, driving has generally rebounded fairly quickly. But so far, not this time. Since June 2005, the number of miles driven has dropped 8.75%
On top of higher gas prices, there are two other primary factors.
#1) Aging baby boomers are drivign less -- Americans tend to start driving less after they turn 55
#2) More surprisingly, between 2001 and 2009, the average number of miles driven tby 16-34 year olds has dropped 23%. Meanwhile, Public transit use for this age group is up 40% since 2001 and Bicycling is up 24% of this time.
The article highlights a lot of hypothesis about why this might be happening, but the bottom line is that the trend lines are becoming pretty clear. The two largest demographic segments in the US are both driving less, one because they're getting older, and the other for other cultural reasons.
Given this, I think it's been great that Kansas City has been investing more into Bike Routes in the city (and published a snazzy new Bike Map) and has approved the building of a new, modern trolley system that will improve public transit for decades to come (with the city working on more routes). It's important that as the population changes, that KC stay up with the trends and remain relevant to the needs and wants of younger, and older, populations.