Has the U.S. Reached "Peak Motorization"?

Peak oil? Probably not. But have we reached "peak motorization" in the U.S.?

Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute says the answer is quite possibly yes:

The absolute number of vehicles reached a maximum in 2008. However, it is likely that this was only a temporary maximum and that the decline after 2008 was primarily driven by the current economic downturn that started in 2008. Consequently, with the improving economy and the expected increase in the U.S. population, it is highly likely that (from a long-term perspective) the absolute number of vehicles has not yet peaked.On the other hand, the rates of vehicles per person, licensed driver, and household reached their maxima prior to the onset of the current economic downturn. Consequently, it is likely that the declines in these rates prior to the current economic downturn (i.e., prior to 2008) reflect other societal changes that influence the need for vehicles (e.g., increases in telecommuting and in the use of public transportation). Therefore, the recent maxima in these rates have better chances of being long-term peaks as well.

But Sivak is smart enough to hedge his prediction:

However, because the changes in the rates from 2008 on likely reflect both the relevant societal changes and the current economic downturn, whether the recent maxima in the rates will represent long-term peaks as well will be influenced by the extent to which the relevant societal changes turn out to be permanent.

Downsizing Soft Drinks

In a recent New Yorker column, one of our best economics journalists, James Surowiecki, discusses Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to ban sales of soft drinks in containers exceeding 16 ounces. Mayor Bloomberg clearly believes, and Surowiecki seems to agree, that people would consume smaller amounts of soft drinks and fewer calories if a ban were enacted.

But would the effect result from behavioral considerations—many people will drink only one serving whether it is 8 oz. or 32 oz.? Or would it result from the second drink costing more time—the effort to get up and order a second 16-oz. drink after buying one—and more money—because the per-ounce price reflects the additional cost of serving two 16-oz. portions instead of one larger portion?  Outside the laboratory, what many argue is evidence for behavioral economics can often be explained by standard neoclassical considerations of money and time costs in demand.

Term Limits? We Don’t Need No Stinking Term Limits!

So it’s nearly official that Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York (and onetime member of a fantasy New York trifecta in the presidential race), will seek to overturn the city’s term limits in order to run for a third term as mayor. Here’s an A.P. article and here’s an excerpt from the New York […]

Will Congestion Pricing Fly in New York?

London has successfully instituted congestion pricing for private vehicles, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been trying very hard to do the same, but ran into stiff opposition from the public as well as political players. New York magazine reports, however, that Bloomberg has just gained an important ally: New York’s new governor, David […]

Is Divorce Good for a Candidate?

With this third and final post, we wrap up our day of divorce. Find our other D-day contributors here and here. History shows that we Americans generally like to elect politicians who have a stable family life, or at the least the appearance of one: a spouse, perhaps a couple of children, etc. Among candidates […]

Offshoring Lung Cancer?

The Wall Street Journal reports on a new World Health Organization study about cigarette smoking around the world. The Journal‘s piece includes data from Euromonitor International about the number of cigarettes sold worldwide by various manufacturers. Here are the numbers of cigarettes sold (in billions) in 2006 by Philip Morris: U.S./Canada: 184 Asia Pacific: 197 […]

Roland Fryer Is Making Things Happen in New York City’s Schools

From today’s Times: Mayor Bloomberg has approved a major facet of Roland Fryer‘s program for making learning “cool” for inner-city kids.

What’s a W.A.S.H.?

Mike Bloomberg regularly calls himself a “short, Jewish billionaire from New York” … but how Jewish is he? Here’s an interesting article from the Forward on Bloomberg’s brand of Jewishness in which an acquaintance calls Bloomberg something I’d never heard, but which is a pretty useful acronym: W.A.S.H., or a White Anglo-Saxon Hebrew. If widely […]

The Price of Smoking in Black and White

In today’s New York Times, Anthony Ramirez reports on the sharp decline in smoking in New York City. According to a study that interviewed 10,000 city residents, only 17.5% of the adult population now smokes, compared to 21.6% in 2002. What accounts for this huge drop? The article offers three potential causes: anti-tobacco TV ads, […]

A New York Trifecta?

Now that it’s looking a bit more likely that Michael Bloomberg could maybe, perhaps, possibly run for President on a third-party ticket, you’ve got to at least entertain this bizarre ballot possibility in 2008: For U.S. President: Hillary Clinton (D-NY) Rudolph Giuliani (R-NY) Michael Bloomberg (I-NY) How nice it would be, speaking as a NYC […]