NYT Infographics – VMT and Oil

Two great infographics from the New York Times – both related to petroleum.

First, a great graph of per capita VMT compared to changes in gas prices:


Putting vehicle miles traveled per capita along the x-axis instead of time makes the swings in both price and VMT more obvious. The massive growth of VMT over time despite the swings in prices shows just how entrenched car culture and automobility are in the US.

All that VMT must need a lot of oil. The Times also has a handy map of the Coast Guard’s forecasts for the extent of the growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.

April 22:


April 28:


May 1:


May 4:


4 comments to NYT Infographics – VMT and Oil

  • […] patterns are no small part of America’s long history of vehicle miles traveled increasing far faster than the rate of population […]

  • Great work from the NYT, and feeding my lust for infographics and visualizations generally. But I’ve done some work on the miles/cars/car ownership stats issue lately myself, and I have to wonder, does the NYT analysis factor properly for demographics?

    For example, they attribute longer driving distances in the mid-late 1960s to ‘cheap gas’ and longer commutes. What about baby boomers cruising in Daddy’s Chevy (to pick just one example)?

    I’m also baffled when I see urbanists arbitrarily start measuring car use in the 1950s, as opposed to in the 1920s when car use first surged.

  • Alex Block

    I’m not sure they exhaustively look for attribution to the changes in driving behavior, Brian. For the “cheap gas, longer commutes” era, that strikes me as more of a title than anything else. The little write-up includes a note about women entering the workforce, for example.

    As far as starting in the 1950s goes, I think that’s an obvious starting point for several reasons. Given the rapid infrastructure expansion in that era, it’s an obvious choice. Likewise, the previous generation dealt with the Great Depression and World War II, two large trends that had serious impact on the transportation choices for Americans.

    I would love to see that data, however. Another possibility is that we just don’t have good VMT data from before the 1950s.

  • […] However, Klein notes that while higher gas prices would certainly curb some driving (and data suggests this to be true), the larger move over the past decades has been the entrenchment of our auto-dependence, and thus […]

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