Last week Tanya Snyder at Streetsblog Capitol Hill posed the question “Has America Already Hit ‘Peak Car’?” She cites evidence from a report from Michael Sivak titled “Has Motorization in the U.S. Peaked?” While the question of whether “peak car” has been reached in America can still be debated — I tend to believe that it has — there is plenty of evidence to support the fact that Americans are driving less. More importantly is the why.
Well, I have an idea of why. I believe that many Americans have come to realize “The Ultimate Absurdity in Transportation” as explained back in January by Angie Schmitt also of Streetsblog Capitol Hill. In Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, author Jeff Speck points out the absurdity by quoting from Ivan Illich‘s 1978 book Toward a History of Needs:
The model American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling. He parks it and searches for it. He earns the money to put down to meeting the monthly installments. He works to pay for gasoline, tolls, insurance, taxes, and tickets. He spends four of his waking 16 hours on the road or gathering resources for it … The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour. In countries deprived of transportation industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go, and they allocate only only 3 to 8 percent of their society’s budget to traffic instead of 28 percent.