Has the U.S. reached peak car?

Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute (previously covered here) recently took a look at recent trends in U.S. car ownership rates. The number of registered light-duty vehicles in the United States peaked in 2008 at 236.4 million and currently stands and as of 2011 -- the last year with available data -- stood at 233.8 million. As Sivak notes, the peak was reached just prior to the Great Recession, so can expect numbers to go back up again if the economy continues to improve. 

However, the more interesting trends may be in vehicles per person, per licensed driver, and per household, all of which peaked between 2001 and 2006, prior to the downturn:


Sivak suggested this may "reflect other societal changes that influence the need for vehicles (e.g., increases in telecommuting and in the use of public transportation). Therefore, the recent maxima in these rates have better chances of being long-term peaks."

So we may continue to see the absolute number of cars on the road go up, but a car in every garage -- not to mention two cars -- no longer seems to be as much a part of the American dream.

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