Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
Univ. of Michigan researcher Michael Sivak has been producing a steady stream of reports hailing the onset of peak car, the high point of American car ownership. Tuesday he released a few more charts hammering home the point and a study showing even pick up truck popularity is on the decline since a peak around 2006.
Peak car happened somewhere around 2004—maybe as late as 2008 depending on how you measure it. (See charts above and below.)
Either way, the conclusion Sivak suggests is a cultural shift away from car culture. "These reductions likely reflect, in part, noneconomic changes in society that influence the need for vehicles (e.g., increased telecommuting, increased use of public transportation, increased urbanization of the population, and changes in the age composition of drivers)," he writes.
Sivak's paper, "Has Motorization in the U.S. Peaked? Part 2," posted to the Univ. of Michigan website Tuesday shows how the peak car phenomenon applies to light-duty vehicles as well. That classification includes small commercial trucks, vans, SUVs and pickups, exactly the auto segments you might expect to be resistant to cultural shifts against driving. The people who rely on them need vehicles for work or are more likely to live in rural or suburban areas where giving up a car in favor of transit is less feasible. But nonetheless, peak pickup has also come, he argues.
The peak for miles driven of light-duty vehicles was 2006, 2.77 trillion miles. In 2011, it was 2.65 trillion, a decrease of 5 percent. Similar trends apply to vehicle ownership. "We now have fewer light-duty vehicles and we drive each of them less than a decade ago," he writes.