Traffic volume and fuel consumption in the US reflect weak economy

Today Calculated Risk posted a chart of vehicle miles traveled in the US:

The fact that VMT has been stagnant for four years is pretty remarkable. Department of Energy data shows that gasoline deliveries are staying at lowest levels ever readings and price per gallon has been stuck at around $3.00 national average for at least 6 months. So the total fleet is more fuel efficient than it used to be (no surprise).

I expect that residential real estate construction is a fairly driving-intense business. And when you factor in that a lot of developments were built at the far reaches of metro areas; I think you could make a case that the housing boom generated a lot of excess miles driven showing up in the increase up to 2006. As housing construction proceeded to collapse  the vehicle miles traveled would show flattening as all of the contractors, developers, and truck deliveries associated with a normal housing sector pulled forward by the housing bubble didn’t materialize.   Then the crude oil and gasoline  price spike and plateau at higher levels, and the broader recession and we get the result in the chart shown.

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