“Nearly 43 million Americans will start their summers on a high note with a Memorial Day weekend getaway,” the American Automobile Association reports. “This long holiday weekend, marking the unofficial start of summer vacation season, will see the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes dating back to 2000, trailing only the bar set in 2005.”
Compared to last year, 1.5 million additional people will drive, fly, or rail. Higher fuel prices (averaging $2.85/gallon for regular nationwide) are being offset by lower hotel and rental-car expenses, according to AAA.
The strong economy translates into more people and more miles traveled this year. Top destinations are Orlando, New York City, and Las Vegas. Internationally, flyers are targeting Rome, London, Dublin, and Paris.
Peak Demand Not
Predictions of Peak Oil Demand (POD) are falling by the wayside. Some 281 million registered vehicles are currently operating in the US versus 249 million six years ago, a 11 percent increase. Vehicle usage is at an all-time high, with the average driver traveling more than 1,300 miles per month.
Yet new predictions of an oil crash (based on fanciful projections of electric-vehicle growth) continue. A new Bloomberg study, Electric Vehicle Outlook 2019, forecasts Peak Oil Demand in 2030. “Astonishing,” wrote Joe Romm at Climate Progress, who several years ago quoted an earlier Bloomberg study that oil’s “big crash” could begin in 2023.
Like Peak Oil Supply, POD adherents just fill-in the blanks with a year further out.
The total vehicle miles travelled in the U.S. last year, 3.2 trillion, is 7 percent higher than 2013 and nearly 20 percent above 1998.
Interestingly, one source of the increase appears to be Uber, Lyft, and other micro-transit upstarts displacing mass transit and bike riding in metropolitan areas. So-called Transportation Network Companies “have added 5.7 billion miles of driving annually in the Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC metro areas,” one study found.
The Joy of Automobility
Hitting the open road on Memorial Day is red, white, and blue for tens of millions of Americans. It is an environmental experience as urbanites head for the water, hills, or countryside for vacation. It is manifested freedom as Professor Cotten Seiler explains in Republic of Drivers: A Cultural History of Automobility in America (University of Chicago Press: 2008).
Seilers’s thesis was summarized by Paul Atchley:
… cars have, from the very beginning, represented more than just transportation to most Americans. Cars have historically represented the freedom to go places, to make choices and to pursue many paths, perhaps even those leading to the unknown or the unexplored.
A look at the early history of car advertising and car clubs that lobbied for better roads and more access to the great American landscape reveals that cars were sold as machines of freedom. Every driver has the opportunity to be mobile and unrestricted, able to “hit the open road,” or, if you have the means, to get off the road altogether in vehicles made for that very purpose.
The last word of traveling Americana belongs to “America’s world poet” Walt Whitman, who wrote “Song of the Open Road,” which reads in part:
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.