Declining Car Use in a Mega City: Exploring the Drivers of Peak Car Including Infrastructure Saturation

There is increasing evidence that vehicle travel in developed countries may have peaked, contradicting many historical travel demand forecasts. The underlying causes of this peaking are still under debate and there has been a mobilization of research, largely focused at national scales, to study the explanatory drivers. There is, however, a dearth of research focused at the metropolitan scale where transportation policy and planning are frequently decided. Using Los Angeles County, California, as a case study, the authors investigate the Peak Car theory and whether social, economic, and technical factors, including roadways that have become saturated at times, may be contributing to changes in travel behavior. After peaking in 2002, vehicle travel in Los Angeles County declined by 3.4 billion (or 4.1%) by 2010. The results show that a majority of the decline in vehicle miles of travel (VMT) in Los Angeles can be attributed to the rising fuel prices during the 2000s. While overall roadway network capacity is not yet a limiting factor for vehicle travel there is some evidence that suggests that congestion along certain corridors may be shifting some automobile travel to alternatives. The results also suggest that the relative impact of any factor on travel demand is likely to vary from one locale to another and Peak Car analysis across large geographic areas obscures the nuances of travel behavior at a local scale.

  • Record URL:
  • Summary URL:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This document was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, University Transportation Centers Program.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Arizona State University, Tempe

    Department of Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering
    P.O. Box 875306
    Tempe, AZ  United States  85287-5306

    National Transportation Center at Maryland

    1124 Glenn Martin Hall
    University of Maryland
    College Park, MD  United States  20742

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Authors:
    • Fraser, Andrew
    • Chester, Mikhail
  • Publication Date: 2016-3-16


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Maps; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 41p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01666085
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: NTC2015-SU-R-01
  • Created Date: Mar 13 2018 9:50AM