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Study finds decline in American driving

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(Read caption) A Metro bus passes a bicycle rack on Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles. Driving in the five largest metropolitan areas of the US dipped 0.9 percent between 2005 and 2006, according to a report by the Brookings Institution.

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More and more, Americans are leaving their cars in the driveway, a new study from the Brookings Institution has concluded.

Brookings researchers Robert Puente and Adie Tomer analyzed driving patterns from 1991 to 2008 in all 50 states and in the 100 largest US cities. Their report, titled "The Road ... Less Traveled" [PDF], found that driving, as measured by total vehicle miles traveled per year, began to plateau in 2004 and then began dropping in 2007.

Per-capita vehicle miles traveled followed a similar pattern, flatlining in 2000 and then beginning to decline in 2005. This drop, which adds up to 388 miles per year, is the steepest since World War II.

“The American driver has hit a wall,” says Mr. Puentes in a press release [PDF]. “We are now driving the same distance per year as we did in 1998.”

Not caused by gas prices

The trend long predates the steep hike in gasoline prices this year. What's more, data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that this trend continued through October, even as gas prices fell from their summer highs.

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