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Americans drove more last year, but still below peak

Vehicle ownership is little changed at about two per household.

The typical American household boosted its driving miles last year, but still doesn't drive as much as it did during the collective driving peak a decade ago, according to a report authored by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's Michael Sivak. Average driving distance per US household, which peaked in 2004 at 22,439, fell steadily until 2013, at which point it rebounded slightly. Last year's average household driving rose 1.4 percent to 22,311 miles.

The first year US driving habits are available is 1984. Average driving distances per year rose steadily in the 1980s and 1990s, hit its plateau just before the Great Recession, and is rebounding slightly from early-decade lows.

For green-transportation, the good news is that average household driving distance is still down more than eight percent from the all-time high.The bad news is that the number of US households continues to grow. That means that through the first six months of last year, US driver miles rose 3.3 percent from a year earlier to a record 1.58 trillion miles, according to the US Department of Transportation. The number of vehicles per household, which peaked in 2006 at 2.050, was little changed last year at 1.95, according to the 13-page report.

The concept of when "peak driving" occurred has been topical as many cities have pushed for more public transportation infrastructure, while both car-sharing and the use of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft have been on the rise. What fluctuating gas prices may mean for driving increase remains in question. US gas prices average about $2.28 a gallon, which is down from about $2.35 last month but up from about $1.70 a gallon a year ago, according to AAA.

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