According to this article by AP writer Joan Lowy, total [motor] vehicle use peaked in America in August, 2007. It dropped off sharply, no doubt due to the recession and the ever-escalating cost of fuel. It has rebounded somewhat since, but has now leveled off.
The experts cite several contributors:
- The percentage of young people who get driver's licenses has dropped off, suggesting that driving isn't as important as it has been in the past
- Ongoing uncertainty about the economy
- Gas prices
- Traffic, lack of parking spaces, etc., has soured people. "Getting into a car no longer correlates with fun."
- Cars are no longer a "fetish of masculinity" for many in our society
- Changing lifestyles - more shopping online, public transit is more popular in many areas, as are walking and cycling
- The population is aging, and the huge "baby boom bubble" drives less as they retire, etc.
- Unemployment - Young people in particular are having a hard time getting and holding a job that will support a car