New York Times Declares the End of Car Culture

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The idea, and the fact, that fewer people are driving has now made it into The New York Times. A recent article has declared "the end of car culture."

America's love affair with its vehicles seems to be cooling. When adjusted for population growth, the number of miles driven in the United States peaked in 2005 and dropped steadily thereafter, according to an analysis by Doug Short of Adviser Perspectives, an investment research company. As of April 2013, the number of miles driven per person was nearly 9% below the peak and equal to wear the country was in January 1995. Part of the explanation surely lies in the recession because cash-strapped Americans could not afford new cars and the unemployed weren't going to work anyway. But by many measures the decrease in driving preceded the downturn and appears to be persisting now that the recovery is under way. The next few years will be telling.

The article goes on to note that the trend is not just affecting car ownership. Fewer teens are showing an interest in getting a license at all.

And it seems that even the automobile industry has made a decision to adjust to a reality where single-driver cars are no longer the norm.

At the Mobile World Congress last year in Barcelona, Spain, Bill Ford, executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, laid out a business plan for a world in which personal vehicle ownership is impractical or undesirable. He proposed partnering with the telecommunications industry to create cities in which "pedestrian, bicycle, private cars, commercial and public transportation traffic are woven into a connected network to save time, conserve resources, lower emissions and improve safety.

Any serious push in this direction by the car industry would certainly be more than welcome. If we could get lawmakers to embrace the 21st century reality as gracefully as Ford has then we might just be able to bid farewell to car culture--and all of the problems that come with it.