One of the great parts of American identity since at least World War II and probably earlier has been the ability to travel. America, being a broad and vast country, was transformed like few others by the invention of the automobile. The frontier traveling of our history became the road treks down Route 66. Some of our distinctively American literature has been written around the ideal of simply driving and exploring the country from coast to coast.
This was a sign of our prosperity as well as our identity. We could afford to travel.
But we’re still not doing it like we used to, despite the alleged “recovery.”
CNS News: “Americans Still Driving Less Than They Did In 2007.”
Although Americans drove their vehicles more miles in October 2013 than they did in any of the five previous Octobers, they still drove less this October than they did in October 2007, according to estimates published in the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Traffic Volume Trends (TVT) report.
The last recession hit in December 2007 and lasted until June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. In the years since that recession first hit, Americans have been driving less than they did immediately preceding it, according to data published by FHWA in its TVT report and Highway Performance Monitoring System.
Since 1957, here have been six calendar years—1974, 1979, 1980, 2008, 2009, and 2011—when Americans drove fewer miles than they did the year before. Three of these years—2008, 2009 and 2011—have come since the last recession started in December 2007.
This October, according to the most recent TVT report, vehicles travelling on all roads and streets in the United States went approximately 258,718,000,000 miles.
That was more than Americans drove in the Octobers of 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, according to the TVT. But it was less than the 261,505,000,000 miles Americans drove in October 2007.
So far, according to the FHWA, calendar year 2007 was the peak calendar year for driving in the United States. That year, vehicles travelling on all roads in the United States went a combined 3,031,124,000,000 miles.
I strongly suspect that, for Americans, this ability or willingness to travel is a better reflection of American prosperity than most numbers or polls, though latest polls match it.
When Americans feel they can afford to travel more, we will have a good indication that the economy is really growing for Americans. In my opinion, unless something dramatically changes, that might never happen. 2007 might just be the peak travel year for the twenty-first century.