Where air protection’s concerned, average per-vehicle vehicle miles traveled the more practical metric

Call it having an epiphany! It’s not every day the average person has one of these. And, for this reason, this makes having epiphanies all the more special.

How what’s put forth below in today’s post is epiphanic should become clear.

Okay, so in considering the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) metric, one of the more referred to ones is average per-capita vehicle miles traveled, whether daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Another, of course, is the aggregate VMT, and like average per-capita VMT, also commonly tabulated in terms of daily, weekly, monthly or annually.

So, why is average per-capita or, for that matter, per-driver vehicle miles traveled, not as practical, where air protection is concerned, as would be the metric average per-vehicle VMT?

Baltimore, Maryland traffic jam

It’s really quite simple: In the United States an average 75 percent of motoring commutes are carried out by commuters driving alone.

Add to this that the majority of motor vehicles in the U.S. – those that are actually driven and not stored in some garage somewhere – are parked (idled) 95 percent of the time, which means the actual roadway usage time for domestic vehicles is a scant five percent. It is only during the time motor vehicles are in operation that these mobile devices are doing what they are tasked to do, that is carry people or product or both.

Now consider driverless or fully autonomous vehicle operation and understanding what conceivably could be coming down the road, the prospect is better than good there will be occasions in a platform such as this, autonomous motor vehicles will move aimlessly about, that is, absent an occupant or cargo or both and because of this, presenting itself is the opportunity or potential from said vehicles for additional amounts of exhaust emissions to be pumped into the air should any of these not be propelled by zero-polluting motors. Please also keep in mind that the expectation is that here in America (as is presumed to be the case elsewhere as well), full, across-the-board, universal driverless (Level 5) roadway-based automobility will one day be realized.

And, as for the road already driven?

In America in 2004, this is when peak per-capita driving or VMT occurred: It reached upwards of about an average 10,000 miles logged. Meanwhile, in 2007 is when aggregate annual driving miles saw its first peak. Since then, such driving has dipped only to subsequently rebound and, not just rebound, but jump past even what it was back in 2007, and on an annual aggregate or total basis reaching 3.2-trillion-plus miles driven – the amount of travel on America’s roads today.

Having this aggregate figure can lend itself to determining what, for example, is the annual average per-capita VMT, which, in this case is 9,816, or what every single American travels per-annum on the country’s roadways.

On the other hand, using the metric of per-vehicle vehicle miles traveled the annual figure on an on-average basis would be 12,167.3 miles by comparison, assuming the total number of operating motor vehicles in this particular instance number 263 million, that number considered to be representative of what exists today, thereby, presumptively, making this by far the much more practical, if not, the much more relevant, metric..

Welcome to the 2020s!

Image above: U.S. Census Bureau

This post was last revised on Feb. 19, 2020 @ 7:52 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

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