ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The history of U.S. living and travel patterns provides valuable insight for the future as the nation prepares to accommodate an additional 100 million residents by 2060, according to the Fuels Institute’s newly released book, “Urbanization: The Effect of Urban Development on U.S. Vehicle Travel and Fuel Demand.”
“How people travel from one location to another is a critical element of society,” said John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute. “Trends indicate that as the population of the United States increases over the coming decades, urban population centers will become larger and more congested. Mobility will become an increasingly important issue for residents and city planners to consider. Our book provides a historical analysis of the relationship between living patterns and mobility, which will help frame discussions on how society will remain mobile in the future.”
“Urbanization: The Effect of Urban Development on U.S. Vehicle Travel and Fuel Demand” evaluates more than 100 years of urban development in the United States from the perspective of individual mobility. Analyzing public data ranging from the late 19th century through the early 20th century, the book demonstrates a very close relationship between transportation capabilities and community development.
“The trends of the past 150 years paint the picture of independent American con¬sumers who value the personal freedom of mobility and may resist a transition to a new paradigm. This is important to understand as the country addresses mobility challenges in an ever-increasing metro environment,” Eichberger explained. “New market entrants—like shared mobility, ride hailing and car sharing services—present the potential to address some of these challenges by minimizing the need for individual vehicle ownership. While this could make urban living less onerous, history indicates it will require a substantive change in consumer behavior.”
The book, written for the Fuels Institute by Hart Schwartz of Clarify Consulting, offers an objective perspective on American societal trends, demonstrating that mobility options and capabilities have played a significant role in shaping U.S. communities. From the horse and buggy to personal vehicles, Americans have pushed the edges of their communities further with improved and more flexible transportation options. This historic trend of expansion, which has been characterized by many societal factors examined in the book, presents a significant challenge to the evolution to a new, urban mobility market.
“The future of mobility is far from certain, and the options that seek to influence the direction of market evolution are multiple, but the historical trends of American living and driving behavior are strong indicators of the challenges that could impact a shift in the personal mobility paradigm,” Eichberger said. “Without understanding the roots of these hurdles, progressing to a new mobility system will be significantly more challenging.”
A two-page executive brief can be downloaded at fuelsinstitute.org/research and copies can be ordered at fuelsInstitute.org/urbanization.