An interesting statistic, and explanation thereof, came across my desk the other day. The New Rules Project crunched some numbers from the US DOT and found that while we are driving less as a nation, our shopping trips are much longer. I will let the excerpt from their report speak for itself.
Miles Driven for Shopping Continues to Climb, But Pace Slows
Newly released data from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that the average American household is driving less than it did in 2001. But, while the number of miles logged going to work, social events, and other activities declined over the last decade, the number of miles families drive for shopping each year continued to climb — although at a much slower pace than in the 1990s. The figures come from the National Household Travel Survey, which is conducted every 6 to 8 years. The 2009 data were gathered during some of the worst months of the economic collapse, from late 2008 into early 2009, which may have skewed the results somewhat as people were driving less than normal. The findings show that, since the last survey in 2001, overall miles driven per household fell 4.4 percent, but shopping-related driving bucked the trend, expanding by 1.3 percent to 3,102 miles per year for the average household… While suburbanization accounts for much of the general growth in driving, it does not explain why the number of miles households drive for errands grew so much faster. As I’ve argued elsewhere, the probable culprit is the rise of big-box stores. Where once a gallon of milk, a prescription, or a piece of hardware was available at a neighborhood store only a few blocks or short drive away, many of those small, local businesses are now gone. They've been replaced by a much smaller number of giant superstores, each of which serves a much larger region. As a result, the average trip to a store is now about three miles longer than it was in 1990. That adds up to a lot of additional miles when multiplied across 113 million households that make an average of 470 trips to stores each year.