While the debate over peak oil rages on, a new yardstick has emerged: "peak travel."

In a nutshell, peak travel is the point at which the number of miles driven per year per person has reached its peak. Lee Schipper, a researcher at the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University, and Adam Millard-Ball, a doctoral candidate at Stanford, have released a study that suggests peak travel for many countries occurred in 2003. They used traffic data from 1970-2008 for eight developed nations: the U.S., the UK, Canada, Sweden, France, Germany, Japan, and Australia. The researchers suggest various reasons for the plateau, including vehicle ownership saturation (700 cars per 1,000 people in the U.S.), rising fuel costs, higher average age of the population, and increased traffic (causing more people to take alternative transportation).

Another interesting bit of information from the study is how much the citizens of the various nations drive. To probably none of our readers' surprise, the U.S. leads this statistic with 16,155 miles per year per person in the United States. Japan came in last of the eight, with only 6,213 miles driven.

Even if peak travel has happened for these eight countries, one shouldn't forget that there are many newly industrialized nations like China who are purchasing vehicles at a staggering rate. Also, since peak travel is a measurement 'per capita', growing populations can still increase the VMT, or vehicle miles traveled, which is the distance that all vehicles in a national fleet travel in a given year. More here.

[Source: Wired | Image: Oran Viriyincy]

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