The Infrastructurist sums up some recent arguments that suggest “America has reached a “saturation point for vehicle ownership and travel.”
If this is all true and it ends up being a sustained trend, what does this mean for American culture? From the advent of the mass-market automobile in the 1920s, Americans have spent much time and resources with their vehicles. Getting a driver’s license was a rite of passage, perhaps the main one our culture has for teenagers (though perhaps it is being replaced by going to college for some). Car companies advertise incessantly and tie their products to American values (this recent Dodge Challenger commercial featuring rebel Americans dispersing the British redcoats with their vehicles is quite appropriate here). Fast food restaurants depend on drive-thrus. Could this all change? Perhaps this all depends on whether driving behavior has plateaued or is actually decreasing. If the younger generation doesn’t drive as much, it will take time for them to replace the figures from older Americans who do drive more.
And the other interesting question is whether this is the beginning of the end of suburbs: if new generations don’t want to drive as much, what does this mean for low-density development? Is this really going to lead to a new urban era with a movement to large cities or simply denser suburbs where the amount of driving is reduced but never disappears completely?