Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Restarts and Divergent Directions

Some interesting stuff on Vehicle Miles Traveled gathered by  In it, the compared the drop in nationwide VMT (-7%) to the drop in median income (-8%) since the start of the recession, which coincides with my point that in a captive market (like car-dependent development) change in gas prices has a minimal impact on overall VMT.  Instead, other factors "move the needle" with regard to how much we're driving (or driving less).  Those issues are economy, availability of other modes of travel, and personal choice, specifically as it relates to millennials who are sick and tired of being trapped in the car since birth (how many were conceived in one, I wonder?).

However, the really interesting stuff is the charted state by state difference.  But first, we have to understand it in relation to this chart:

As you can see, median income is showing some signs of rebound.  However, this isn't to say everyone everywhere is going to start driving again happily as ever as if we were all partying like it's 1999 again.  Let's look at the states individually:

If you can't enlarge, just hit the afforementioned link.  What you see is states rebounding in different directions.  Some see VMTs heading back in the same direction as median income.  More money, more problems.  Or just driving more, as it were.

On the other hand, some states continue to trend downward, particularly California, New York, and Pennsylvania are way down.  It's a bit of a leap without state by state median income data, but if we assume it's trending back up across the nation, some states are putting the increased income straight back into the gas tank, while others are pocketing the difference.  It's almost as if there is a clear demarcation between states which think a kickstarted economy is a return to the past, while others are clearly moving forward towards a less auto-dependent, but ultimately more efficient, less wasteful, and more productive future.

Dare we say some states are merely restarting their software while others are upgrading?