Decline of the Automobile

Cars have been an important if not essential element of America life for the past 100 years. Every decade, Americans owned more cars and drove more miles per person. That is, until around 2005. Over the past 5-10 years, Americans for the first time have begun to reduce their total distance per person and car ownership per capita. While some may attribute the decrease to a turbulent economic climate, I believe that it is actually the sign of the beginnings of a paradigm shift. I expect that over the next several decades, this trend will continue and eventually cars will become much less important than they are today. But why?

Suburbs are retreating back into cities. Rather than moving into new developments further and further out into the exurbs, Americans increasingly are relocating to urban centers. This can be attributed to many things such as job opportunities, commute times, etc. However this means that if this trend continues, over time fewer and fewer people will need to commute long distances from semi-rural locations into cities to work. Instead, cities themselves will grow much faster than the rate of population growth. This will encourage cities to build up methods of public transportation because demand will rise and many cities, such as New York or Boston, cannot handle more cars on the streets. 

Over the past ten years gas prices have become increasingly unpredictable. Tensions are hot in the Middle East and Americans felt the effects of several dramatic spikes in gas prices. For most people, income remains constant and many expenses do as well. It can be stressful, particularly for those who do not make a comfortable amount of money, not to be able to predict expenses for gas. Additionally, there seems to be an emerging trend of environmental conscientiousness which discourages excessive driving.