VMT per capita

Desired Trend

Down

Current Trend

Up
Baseline (2010): 25.6
Current (2016): 26.6

Theme Connected

Definition

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita per day

Why is it Important?

Transportation by personal vehicles has high personal and public costs, increases congestion, and pollutes the air and water. Nationally, average auto ownership for a sedan costs between $7,500 and $9,800 per year, which includes the cost of registration and taxes, depreciation, finance charges, maintenance, insurance, and gasoline.1 The transportation sector has substantial environmental impacts, accounting for 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States,2 and transportation by motor vehicles reduces air quality by contributing to ground-level ozone, causes noise pollution, and reduces water quality from tire wear particles and oil leakage. Reducing the number of miles driven by personal vehicles limits these negative impacts. Increasing transportation choices can help reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) while also giving residents more options on how to access destinations, such as walking, cycling, or transit. This indicator measures the average number of miles driven per capita per day. The data includes all miles traveled on the region’s roads, including travel by residents, visitors, and pass-through traffic.  

 

How are we Doing?

In accordance with recent national trends, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita has been increasing in the St. Louis region. In 2016, VMT per capita was higher than it was in the baseline year (2010). In 2016, the average St. Louisan drove an estimated 26.6 miles per day. In 2010, this average was one mile less, at 25.6 miles per day. Over the last 15 years, VMT per capita in St. Louis peaked at 28.1 miles per day in 2004. Then, following the 2007-2009 recession, VMT per capita declined, reaching a low of 24.9 miles per day in 2011. Since 2011, VMT per capita has been increasing slowly. Nationally, average daily VMT per capita peaked in 2005 at 27.7 miles per day and was at about 26 miles per day from 2009 to 2014. However, since 2014, the national average daily VMT per capita has increased 27.2 miles per day.

The St. Louis region had slightly higher daily VMT per capita than the nation between 2000 and 2004, but since 2007 the region’s daily VMT per capita has been lower than or about the same as the nation’s. The fluctuation in VMT per capita is likely due to a variety of factors, including the increasing cost of gasoline, the decreasing proportion of people of peak driving age (35 to 54), increased interest in alternative modes of transportation, and the decline in the labor force participation rate.While these factors may account for some change in the VMT in St. Louis, the year-to-year change for the region is small and mostly not statistically significant. VMT estimates and the Census population estimates both have some error that likely impact this performance indicator. Additionally, in 2013, the Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) adjusted their methodology for calculating VMT, which may have also had an effect on local numbers. 

Geographic Level

St. Louis eight county bi-state region, including Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis counties and city of St. Louis in Missouri and Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties in Illinois. View map.

Notes

1AAA, Your Driving Costs: How much are you really paying to drive?, 2015; accessed on 11 March 2016 at http://newsroom.aaa.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/YourDrivingCosts2013.pdf

2U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 9 September 2013; accessed on 23 January 2014 at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html

3Dutzik, Tony and Phineas Baxandall, A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future, Spring 2013; accessed on 20 February 2014 at http://www.uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/A%20New%20Direction%20vUS.pdf 

Data Sources

Federal Highway Administration Highway Performance Monitoring System and East-West Gateway Council of Governments