- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words...


Sounds like a lot, huh? That is, until you see this graph...

and see just how bad things have become in just the past 25 years. I found this graph, created by the DOT Federal Highway Administration in a Treehugger article. Just in case you can't see the image so well, this graph tracks annual vehicle miles travelled in the USA, counted in the BILLIONS of miles, and shows the change in miles driven since 1983. Americans in 2007 drove some 3 trillion miles. OK, so it is a fairly steep dip right up there in the top right of the graph - that is promising. But if you look at where we are coming off from... WOW. This trend of the last few months might have to continue for 20 years or more before we come back to the levels we had then. Nevertheless, a return to the levels of even 2 or 3 years ago would probably indicate a fairly major shift in lifestyles and attitudes. There is an old saying in finance that "the trend is your friend, until the end." Well this may be the end of the trend that has been friendly to the US auto/sprawl related industry investor, and the beginnings of a new trend that is friendly to a new type of investor - the green investor, the new urban citizens and the farming community. Indeed, many an investor has already bet the farm that this will be the new trend for the forseeable future in the United States.

China, India, South America and Russia/Eastern Europe have become the new battleground - where the old forces of oil/auto/coal/sprawl/consumerism have already taken their investment dollars.

This strong new trend in US driving (or lack of driving) patterns continues, despite falls in gasoline prices, with total miles driven in August 2008 now 15 billion miles lower than the same month in 2007. Cumulatively this year, Americans have driven over 67 BILLION miles less in 2008 than the same period of 2007. This is a reduction in driving the likes of which the USA has never seen before. Sounds like a lot huh... and yet... again... it is just a drop in the ocean when you look at this graph of what we have done to the country in recent decades. Attitudes towards driving are changing, and fast, but it will take more than this before any real progress is made.


Zakkaliciousness said...

That graph is striking and not a little amusing.
Lovely blog, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Not bad! I will come back to read more soon

Tania said...

This comes from The Japan Times of yesterday:

Sad, but I guess a lot of people should start to look for new jobs...