VMT per capita

Desired Trend

Down

Current Trend

Up
Baseline (2010): 25.6
Current (2019): 26.7

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 medium-sized sedan costs an estimated $9,817 per year (varying based on mileage driven), 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 national trends, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita in the St. Louis region increased, after a decline during the Great Recession. On average, residents in both St. Louis and the country as a whole are currently driving slightly fewer miles than prior to the Great Recession.

In 2019, daily VMT per capita in St. Louis was higher than it was in the baseline year (2010). In 2019, the average St. Louisan drove an estimated 26.7 miles per day. In 2010, this average was about one mile less, at 25.6 miles per day. Over the last 19 years, VMT per capita in St. Louis peaked at 28.1 miles per day in 2004 and 28.0 in 2006. Then, VMT per capita declined during and following the recession, reaching a low of 24.9 miles per day in 2011. Since 2011, VMT per capita has been increasing slowly. From 2011 to 2019, VMT per capita increased almost two miles.  

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. It has been slowly increasing and was about 27 miles per day for 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Changes in VMT per capita are due to a variety of factors, including the cost of gasoline, the decreasing proportion of people of peak driving age (35 to 54), increased interest in alternative modes of transportation, and fluctuations in the labor force participation rate.While these factors may account for some change in the VMT in St. Louis, the year-to-year changes for the region are small and mostly not statistically significant. VMT estimates and the Census population estimates both have some error that also impact this performance indicator. Further, in 2013, the Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) adjusted their methodology for calculating VMT, which may also have an effect on local numbers. 

 

Geographic Level

St. Louis eight-county bi-state region, including Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties and the 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?, 2019; accessed on 28 January 2021 at https://exchange.aaa.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/AAA-Your-Driving-Costs-2019.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; East-West Gateway Council of Governments