Driving in America Changed: Rural is Up, Urban Down, Mass Transit Out

Vacationing by car instead of going overseas, working from home instead of commuting, and to heck with mass transit.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Total miles driven by all types of passenger and commercial vehicles, including over-the-road trucks and local delivery vehicles, in June, on all roads and streets in the US rose to 282.5 billion miles, the highest since October 2019, and just a tad below June 2019, according to the Federal Highway Administration this week. In other words, total miles driven are now roughly back where they were before the pandemic.

But beneath the surface, there have been some shifts that reflect the shifts many Americans have embarked on, including the shift to working from home, and thus less urban driving, and the shift to vacationing within the US, rather than to foreign destinations, and much of it by car, and thus an increase in driving through rural areas, such as on Interstate Highways and scenic byways.

In urban areas – on urban Interstates, arterial streets, and regular streets – Americans drove 193.4 billion miles in June, still down by just under 1% from June 2019 and June 2018 (red line in the chart below).

These 193.4 billion miles of urban driving in June accounted for 68.4% of total miles driven.

In rural areas – rural Interstates, other rural highways, and roads – in June, Americans drove 89.2 billion miles, up over 2% from June 2019 and June 2018 (green line). June was the first month when miles driven in rural areas exceeded the pre-pandemic levels. Note how urban and rural miles driven used to grow at roughly the same rate through February 2020. But during the recovery, they diverged.

The shifts in urban miles.

People who’ve shifted to working from home for at least some of the working days drive less in urban areas.

But part of this decline is counter-balanced by the people who are still going to work daily, but shifted from commuting by mass-transit to commuting by car, which raises urban driving. The red line in the chart above represents the net of the decline of urban driving by working-from-homers and the increase in urban driving by people who used to ride mass-transit.

Transit systems all over the country are still reporting drastically reduced ridership on their buses, trains, and ferries – in contrast to road congestion, which is nearly back to where it was before, and in some places worse than it was before.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system — a rail service that connects some of the major cities in the Bay Area to San Francisco — reported that in July, ridership was still down by 77.6% from July 2019, with 2.2 million passengers using the system, down from over 10 million in July 2019. Ridership was up from the pandemic lows but remains minuscule – despite brand-spanking new trains now being phased in.

A couple of weeks ago, I reported that weekly gasoline consumption in the first week of July – covering the 4th of July weekend – had hit an all-time high for any week, and that over the weeks surrounding the weekend, gasoline consumption was only slightly below the same period in 2019. In other words, based on gasoline consumption, the amount Americans drive has nearly fully recovered.

Gasoline consumption does not cover driving by vehicles with diesel engines, and therefore does not include trucks and other diesel-powered vehicles, though it includes gasoline-powered delivery vehicles. So gasoline consumption focuses on consumers’ driving patterns, and excludes much of the trucking activity.

On the other hand, gasoline consumption excludes driving by EVs. In cities in California, EVs are starting to be a noticeable part of the fleet. But nationwide – which is what we’re looking at here – EVs make up only a small part of the national fleet.

The fact that gasoline consumption set a new record over the holiday week in early July shows that shift toward driving vacations.

The growth of miles driven in rural areas confirms this.

It may not be a newly rediscovered passion. It’s just that Americans cannot easily fly to Thailand or India or Europe for vacations, or they could but don’t want to deal with the hassles and risks, and instead they drive around the US, which is a great thing. In normal times, tourists come from all over the world to see the wonders of America, such as the National Parks. Now these places are packed with Americans.

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  119 comments for “Driving in America Changed: Rural is Up, Urban Down, Mass Transit Out

  1. TimTN says:

    Interesting data. As someone that moved from a big city to a rural city. I never see myself getting on mass transit ever again, whereas pre Covid I was a regular.

    • Paulo says:

      What is a rural city? :-) Just kidding, I think you mean a smaller city as opposed to they mega versions.

      This will be good for the motel industry for sure.

      • Augustus Frost says:

        I am planning a few overnight trips in the next few months for a get away. Hotel room rates are certainly back at absurd levels.

        • Lone Coyote says:

          Even campsites (at least at places like KOAs) are more expensive than they were in 2019.

    • joe2 says:

      I rode trolleys in Boston for years and it worked fine. If I needed a car, I would rent one. If that philosophy had continued to this day, there would be a lot lower need for cars of any sort gas or electric.

      But I think we now have a fanaticism for central planning without any intelligence.

  2. DawnsEarlyLight says:

    We put on probably three or four more times the mileage, that the average person does, in ‘vacationing’ throughout the grand USA each year. Driving our Toyota Rav4 Hybrid has certainly saved us a lot of money in fuel expense. If the Infrastructure bill does indeed apply a mileage tax to everyone, then we will bicycle our way!

    I wonder if the new Toyota Rav4 Prime, a hybrid that you can plug in, will not be counted, as EVs aren’t counted now?

    • Nacho Bigly Libre says:

      I think odometer in my car just stopped working. Strange!

      • Shiloh1 says:

        Nothing like the good old days turning it back with a reversible drill.

        • Joe says:

          Yeah. The good old days of simple ways to screw other people for your personal benefit.

        • Nacho Bigly Libre says:

          Yup Joe, good old days when there was accountability for government spending.

          This mileage tax will totally save the planet and fixes all roads /s

        • DanR says:

          That sounds safer than the approach in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

    • joe2 says:

      I looked at the Rav4 as a replacement for a 4Runner. Fine if you can take the downsize. I thought the new hybrid ones were kind of quiet and spooky acting independently.
      I repaired my 4Runner because I was worried about the future price of gas and electricity. Kept my options open.
      Actually I like driving an old vehicle, no worries.

      • DawnsEarlyLight says:

        Yeah, without the luggage rack on top, it would have been too small to be comfortable when traveling.

  3. The Bob who cried Wolf says:

    When my wife and I walk around the hood we see busses come and go. We each take guesses on how many passengers, typically 2 or 3 is the guess. Usually we’re right, but many times it’s Zero. Nobody. The pols keep pushing the virtues of sitting in a bus on a poop stained seat and keep insisting that the public is in favor of this…they’re wrong, dead wrong. I’ve considered a video blog showing how nobody rides mass transit anymore and calling it BUSted.
    The overwhelming majority of the folks who ride transit in San Diego are the drugged out zombies living on the streets.
    Was it missing persons who said only a nobody walks in LA? People like their cars.

    • Djreef says:

      It was.

      Missing Persons.

    • OrcasEatSharks says:

      In Seattle public transit is coming back. Lots of white collar workers on them this week.Seattle has one of the best bus systems in the country. The public supports it here.

      • Mg says:

        As someone who knows very well what public transit in Seattle is like, the experience is far from pleasant.

        • OrcasEatSharks says:

          Mg, for a city of 700k, Seattle has an awesome public transit system. The buses are frequent and run even into single family home neighborhoods. Employers here for the most part sponsor nearly free transit cards. Some curmudgeons just want to whine and complain and live in their tract housing cul de sac in the middle of nowhere. It’s a great system.

      • Nacho Bigly Libre says:

        It serves urban dwelling tech bros and hobos very well.

        Busses run at 70% operating loss there and nobody cares.

      • Shiloh1 says:

        Train station parking lot on BNSF Metra western burb commuter line in downtown Chicago has about 15-20 cars daily where there used to be about 200, plus houses nearby used to rent out spots in their driveway or garage. No more. Been like this for a year.

        Must not be safe, due to covid or lead projectiles.

        • Catxman says:

          In Vancouver, the buses are pretty full, experiencing lower levels only during Covid. But that’s due to the respectful, polite Canadian culture. Even the bums here have the culture of respect. Not always, no, but usually. When you have a civil culture it’s a strong glue that holds things together and makes things work.

        • Brent says:

          Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.

          And that’s why Fearful Angels created “Most Dangerous CTA Stations” website.

          Ahh,riding the METRA Red Line makes me feel like Boy Scout,mumbling our Scout Master mnemonics about poisonous/harmless snakes:

          Red on yellow kill a Fellow.
          Red on black Venom lack
          Red touches black, it’s a Friend of Jack.
          Red touches yellow, it’s bad for a Fellow.

    • Augustus Frost says:

      I never intend to ride public transit again in the city where I live, if I can help it. I moved slightly outside city center but previously, I would ride the rail to the airport. I didn’t like it then and don’t see why I will in the future either.

      • Auldyin says:

        Short route stuff can be basic, but one of my top favourite pre-covid pastimes was to travel on the UK LNER east coast main line.
        Deep leather reclining seats with complimentary whisky and food, swishing through fantastic scenery at 125mph with jovial attendants.
        One of life’s great pleasures which I cannot wait to repeat once it is safe to do so, although my trusty and comfortable ancient UK trains have been replaced by Japanese Hitachi units which I have yet to try.

    • josap says:

      In Phx Metro many people take the bus or light rail to work or school. Due to covid, not as many as before, but still a good number of people use transit here in the city.

    • georgist says:

      Feces on seats and homeless drug addicts are not a mass transit problem.

      They are the product of a society that is failing badly, which happens to have buses.

      • topcat says:

        Indeed. But the underlying simplistic philosophy of the American-Dream that holds the very disparate population of the USA together coupled with the ” if you are poor you must be lazy” mentality, really precludes any action which would alleviate this problem. The massive homeless camps in the middle of cities like LA and SF, and the thousands of people living in their cars with their children would simply not be tolerated in Europe or Asia.

        • Winston says:

          “According to a 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. At a minimum, 140,000 or 25 percent of these people were seriously mentally ill, and 250,000 or 45 percent had any mental illness. By comparison, a 2016 study found that 4.2 percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.”

          Also, drug abuse/addiction (which definitely includes alcohol).

          According to Wikipedia’s “List of countries by homeless population” sorted by “Homeless per 10,000,” the US figure of 17.5 is actually MUCH lower than many other developed nations. We should examine what they are doing about the problem and then do what they have found to be most effective.

        • bunky says:

          If you look at homelessness per 100,000 the US is at 17.5, China is at 18, Germany is at 81.9, France is at 45.
          A lot of toleration going on there.

        • Fred says:

          Are you kidding? The poor in the Asian countries that I used visit regularly (China, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand) do not have cars. In the rural areas of China, people eat rats. It’s the only protein they get. In the US, the fattest people are the poorer people.

        • georgist says:

          Homelessness in the USA is over 4 times less than Germany?

          Please pause to reflect on the correctness of that statistic.

          Homelessness has a broad definition that includes people house and (in Germany’s case as you know as it’s next to the Wikipedia stat) refugees.

          For the above context of people on buses we both know we mean people sleeping rough.

          I’d be amazed if Germany has more people like that .

        • tyrone o'saurus says:

          Following the the book and the movie “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, the bleeding hearts signaled their superior virtue by emptying the nation’s mental health facilities. Unable to support themselves and their drug habits the inmates ended up on the streets. Since the weather (and benefits are better in CA than most of the rest of the country. they congregate there. As it works out, most of the homeless rather prefer their lifestyle.

          Unfortunately, most of the solutions for homelessness as it exists are not palatable to the woke.

        • VintageVNvet says:

          IIRC, it was governor ray gun who closed or greatly downsized the mental health facilities in CA, the results of which were immediately apparent on the streets,,, as just one more of his actions to impress his right wing reactionary financial supporters on his way to the white house, and to prove he wasn’t the ”rat” he so clearly was during the McCarthy hearings…
          similar to his outrageous action to bomb the entire ”southside” population of Berkeley because a very few criminals were being destructive during the various and sundry marches of mostly law abiding protestors
          I was there, both in the streets some days between classes and living in an apartment, and experienced his reckless behaviours making his ”chops” for the right wing.
          Maybe 1 out of 100 were criminals,,, likely ”plants” as was clearly proven some were later…

      • NBay says:

        Thank you and also topcat. The Calvinists can get tiring rather quickly.

    • Sierra7 says:

      Bob Who Cried Wolf:
      Have family that lives in San Francisco and are “displaced” from the bus lines that have been terminated since the beginning of the pandemic.
      Many people still ride municipal transportation for multiple reasons.
      Yes, …..”People like their cars”.
      But, as our living environment becomes more and more perilous because of human caused destruction they will like them less and less.
      There is still a place for public transportation. “Public Transportation” is just that…..For the Public! Not supposed to be expected to be run like a profitable corporation.
      Closing more urban streets to auto transport will also open up more efficiencies for public transportation from “hubs to hubs”.
      We really need to change our lifestyles.
      Lifestyles that are destroying “public life”.

      • logic101 says:

        Where do you get the idea that it’s o.k. to force people to share their space with people they don’t like? And why do they have to pay for those others to roam? The “public” transportation is just a thinly veiled welfare program particularly for those who draw a paycheck, fat contract, or a consulting fee from those boondoggles.
        What do you suggest next? Make everybody eat at a soup kitchen?

      • tfourier says:

        Ah, but have you ever rode MUNI? Which is why I have always owned a car when living in San Francisco.

        If you have to take the 22, 5, or 18 to pick three buses at random you will very soon discover why only middle class cranks and people who have no other choice ride MUNI.

        Do you know what a street person who has not washed in months smells like? On a wet day? Even when they are sitting six rows away. You get off the bus and walk.

        So when a mentally ill person, street junkie, or just total jerk starts causing a scene will you back up the bus driver and make sure the guy is quickly thrown of the bus or street car. I do. I’m a big guy and I have been dealing with this crap for decades. I know I can say or do things the MUNI driver is not allowed to. And if the SFPD are called I know exactly what to tell them. So the troublemakers always back-down quickly.

        I’ll be returning to SF soon and very top of the list of things to get is a car. Because public transit in cities like SF are horrific to use, very slow, and utterly undependable. A 30 min drive across the City is a two hour slog (on a good day) by public transit.

        Not sure how Seattle is now but a decade or two ago Metro Bus was a joy to use. Still had a car most of the time in Seattle but the bus system was actually a reasonable substitution for the car quiet a few times. But that was before the 200K newcomers voted for politicians who filled downtown with street people and street junkies.

        Because that’s the reality of public transit in most big US cities. Unpleasant and often dangerous to use and immensely expensive for the taxpayer. In most cities it would be far cheaper to buy all the legitimate paying passengers Uber’s. Not many of those (even pre COVID) on most bus lines in SF. On a 22 or 18 you often hear a lot less than 50% of passengers get a Clipper card beeb as they get on.

        And if you think it can be reformed, you really have no idea how it ended up in this state. The politics. Or just how deeply embedded municipal corruption is.

        So I think I will just drive. Everywhere.

        • NBay says:

          So are you a caped muni crusader or not? With great power goes great responsibility.

      • The Bob who cried Wolf says:

        I think back on the various times Wolf replies by first telling the poster that they must not have read the story. I said San Diego, not San Francisco. Try reading it first next time before passing all sorts of judgment. I’m simply saying what I see here. Can’t speak for all the fine folk in SF

    • joe2 says:

      Did I not just say:
      “But I think we now have a fanaticism for central planning without any intelligence.”
      Must be a diversity thing.

  4. Seneca’s Cliff says:

    Even the urban traffic patterns have changed. Coming in to PDX from the west you have to merge in to one of three lanes leading to the tunnel that dumps you in downtown Portland. Once you hit the tunnel you can’t change lanes. 20 years ago most of the morning traffic was in the center lane which takes you to downtown. For the last 10 years before COVID it was equally split with the right lane taking you to the southern burbs, and the left lane taking you to Washington state, and the center lane going downtown. Now the left and right lanes are jammed and the center lane is empty. Almost as many people are commuting but they are going from one part of the periphery to another instead of heading to the office buildings downtown.

    • georgist says:

      Even car pooling is out when covid is in play.

      Could be less people but yet still more cars.

  5. Djreef says:

    I know the wife and I have driven more in the last 3 months looking for affordable property than we have in the last 2 years. I have no idea from what we’ve seen where the petroleum consort is getting their reduced projections from. COVID doesn’t look to be denting anything affiliated with gas consumption, with maybe the mass transit/air traffic.

  6. MCH says:

    Well, mass transit is certainly in trouble, I think being stuck with a bunch of unvaccinated people on a train is a concern, BART, Caltrain, etc ought to just go ahead an have a vaccine mandate in place, it’ll make people feel more comfortable, may be do a digital app that can be scanned before someone is allowed on the train.

    On the other hand, with all this extra driving on rural roads, investing in both oil stocks, and EV related stocks (yes, I’m pumping TSLA) seem like a no brainer. Oil stock because EV volume is still tiny, and gas is needed to get the cars going. The latter because there is a mandate from the Feds to get to 50% EV (excuse me, non-emissions vehicle) by 2030 or something like that.

    The trend is definitely with those stocks.

    • ivanislav says:

      Yeah, just ban everybody from the society if their risk analysis doesn’t match yours, so that you can “feel more comfortable”. Would-be-emperors, all of you.

      • MCH says:

        Well, you can complain about it or profit by it. If more stores enact these behavioral mandates, then the obvious thing is to buy into companies like doordash or whatever food delivery apps there are. People has to eat. So, I am hoping grocery stores starts enacting vaccine mandate…. After all, shopping for groceries is an indoor activity.

        And by the way, the risk analysis profile isn’t mine… it’s what society and the folks in charge has deemed it to be.

        • ivanislav says:

          The largest mass murder events in history have all been at the hands of governments. I’m amazed that anyone would want to give government levers of control over your movement within your own country. It may seem far fetched today, but the frog cooks slowly at first, and then all at once ;)

        • Old School says:

          It seems to me that most information dispensed out about the virus looks pretty inaccurate within 12 months.

    • economicminor says:

      My wife and I just returned from a trip from rural Oregon to Wisconsin. I like the secondary roads as you see much more of the country and how people live. We did end up on some Super Slabs but mostly back roads.

      As for rural roads, there are some that are crowded but for the most part, there is mostly only local traffic on them.. The majority of the *rural* travel is on the Super Slabs (freeways and Interstates) and in and around the big name Nation Parks. Most of the small USFS campgrounds were pretty empty. State Parks were busy but we always found a site.

      We were driving a class C RV and were able to find a site to park everywhere we went. We did make reservations in some of the places but mostly we just called ahead that day or the day before when we knew where we were going to be. Stayed a couple nights on Hwy 12 below Lolo Pass along the Lochsa River in a USFS CG with only one other camper.. We had river a river front site. No power but it was not so hot those days and not too smokey either.

      Seems people want the security of the freeways and Interstates and reservations. So my experience has been that people do not really want rural.. They want congestion which they take as security.

    • Old School says:

      I saw someone tried to get an amendment to the infrastructure bill that there would be no subsidy for EV over a $40,000 priced auto. Seems very logical, but don’t think it passed. Middle class supporting upper middle class to drive a $75,000 vehicle.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Old School,

        The EV subsidies have been removed from the infrastructure bill.

        But they’re in the $3.5 trillion budget framework that the Democrats are currently flogging. I’m not sure how much of a chance this has.

        • MCH says:

          The EV subsidy needs to go anyway. Everyone who is rich and wanted to get an EV already has one. If they don’t, it’s their fault, the subsidy has been around for a decade plus now, and totally expired as far as Tesla’s were concerned by 2017 or something.

          Remember, subsidy is for people who most need it. Not the people who aren’t in the 1% category.

  7. wkevinw says:

    I used to ride BART daily. It seems like it was a better experience then. like most things in CA. Public property suffers in hard economic times.

    • Anon1970 says:

      The new BART cars are being phased in. They are quite nice. Some of the stations have had their emergency gates reinforced, keeping out more homeless and criminals.

  8. Anthony A. says:

    For reference, car traffic here in the greater Houston, Texas area is back to normal levels and then some. I have no ideas about mass transit (buses) though. And the Big Pickup Truck Guy is again ruling the roads (LOL).

    • georgist says:

      I’ve seen many urgent consignments of air being shipped around by urban men cosplaying “farmer” in Canada, in pickup trucks.

      • roddy6667 says:

        35 years ago we had a saying. “The bigger the tires, the smaller the d***”. It’s still true, but there are a lot more of them now. Is there some sort of testosterone deficiency pandemic going around?

        • Stweedo says:

          It’s funny you say that because it’s always the guys who are self conscious about their lack of size that say this.

          Sorry to break it to you, but the size of someone’s tires has nothing to do with the size of their genitals.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        georgist-now YOU make me spray my cuppa!

        may we all find a better day.

  9. Nathan Dumbrowski says:

    Before the nasty virus my go to option was to fly myself and/or family between coasts. Post virus I found myself on tons of road trips. Took the time to actually see and stay at and around Georgia. Will be driving cross country at the end of the month back to SoCal. Hotels were booked today and are much cheaper than I would have expected. Sometimes life is strange in that it seems to fit into the stories I read here

    Still on buyers strike. Feel like it’s saving since shipping car, bike and contents and jumping on a plane is vastly more expensive. Well it’s also on the bucket list to drive cross country once in my lifetime

    • roddy6667 says:

      We were in Qingdao, China for 7 years. We got stuck outside the country in July and the only country anybody with an American passport could fly to was America. Two tickets to JFK cost $20,000 USD. One-way. Coach. LAX was only $5000, so we went there. You can’t fly directly to CT without transferring. The COVID was rampant then, and the TSA staff were dying in most major airport. Screw that. We rented a RAV4 at LAX and drove to CT. It was pleasant, and we avoided the flying Petri dishes.
      I was supposed to drive cross-country with a friend back in 1974, but it got canceled. At age 72 I finally did it.
      Good luck and have fun!

      • Nathan Dumbrowski says:

        Love the story & response. I too don’t want to have that dream/wish dashed. A friend just offered to co-pilot. Looking forward to the adventure. Not looking forward to gas fill up at premium rates or the crowds/hotels. Cheers!

        • VintageVNvet says:

          Drove across USA about 50 times between getting out of USN in 1966 and 91,,, then, after long hiatus to ”work” where I had to fly for time reasons, six round trips FL to CA and back since 2016, I LOVE the drive, and will do it again sooner and later.
          Long term wonderful friends at both ends, and family spread around both ends also is surely a motivation, but the drive itself is wonderful,,, a truly beautiful country to travel through east to west and south to north and vice versa…
          Do NOT miss some of the wonders everywhere, from Faulkner’s home in MS, to the incredible views of the 4 corners and similar areas.
          TAKE YOUR TIME!!!
          Speeding through on the interstates, especially in TX, is boring at the best of times,,, and this is not the best of times.

    • roddy6667 says:

      The best part was I-70 from the beginning in Utah to Denver. Parts of it are like another planet.

  10. ru82 says:

    I own a couple of rental homes.

    It is starting to get really annoying as I probably get a call every other day from some home investor wanting to buy one of my rental or even my primary home. In addition I am getting at least 3 postcards or letters a week too. I also get 3 to 5 texts a week.

    I have no idea how they are getting my cell phone numbers. Google probably sold it.

    I have never had such a blitz of people wanting to buy these homes. It is worse now than last year.

    • DawnsEarlyLight says:

      Welcome to the club!

    • Max Power says:

      I own several rental properties in Florida and for the past few years have gotten multiple calls per day from these guys. They are robo-dialled but not robo-called, i.e., after a short connection delay, an actual person (sometimes in a heavy foreign accent – some of them must be employing overseas call centers) comes on the phone to check of I want to sell some particular property.

      I do wonder who would be dumb enough to actually sell a property to these folks, at least without also trying to market it to the market at large – which would negate any advantage the callers might have by cold-calling masses of owners this way. But hey, like I said, these guys employ actual human beings to conduct these calls which costs actual money so it must make sense to them financially somehow… If there is one these past couple of years have thought me, it is that there are way more dumb people out there than I had previously imagined possible.

      • Don says:

        Most likely the calls are being paid for by a local real estate agent looking for property listing leads. The days of the local real estate agent cold calling or walking the neighborhood or joining a local church and various social clubs is over to find leads is mostly over.

        • Max Power says:

          I don’t think so. These guys want to make offers, not to list.

        • Masked Ghost says:

          Here in flyover country real estate agents send letters.

        • Steve says:

          Counter with $3Mil Cash 2 week close. As soon as cash hits my account I’ll give you the keys.

          They never call back.

      • MCH says:

        Interesting, I am wondering if those text and phone offers would be superior to using realtors.

        Again, easy to complain about the nuttiness, I think it’s more interesting to look at the peripheral effects. Would anyone weigh in on their experience with those robocall real estate or texts and the actual transactions?

        • California Bob says:

          I sold my SFBA home a few years ago to an agent that had sent me a postcard. “A postcard! How quaint,” I thought, so I gave him a call. He spent several hours explaining the process to me, and I didn’t detect any deceit so I hired him. He handled both sides of the transaction, saving me 3% ($39K), and did it all online and through social media, at which he was particularly adept. Low-tech customer acquisition and high-tech sale.

        • MCH says:

          Thanks Bob… that’s interesting. It would be useful to hear more anecdotes like this. Because it has been a rage in the bay area to have robocalls, texts, and signs on the road saying “we buy homes for cash” I’m very curious on what those experiences and results are like.

          It sounds like you went with a traditional real estate agent who had a client that was looking. Nice.

    • Old School says:

      My friend just sold her beach mobile home. It’s tough to finance used mobile homes so people have to have cash. She had four buyers each with $185,000 cash to put down on a second home. Three were retirees and one was a middle aged family.

    • lenert says:

      rc82, u?

  11. James says:

    Yeah ru82…well why donn’t you “sock it to them” & sell one or two rentals since your tenants may not be paying rent for who knows how long?
    Do the capitalistic thing and “cash out,” take advantage of the situation!
    What’s to complain ABOUT?

    • Rg says:

      Most of the offers are ridiculously low. I actually got an unsolicited written offer in the mail on our small farm. The offer was about 7.5% of the appraised value of the farm.

      • roddy6667 says:

        That’s how the “We buy houses cash” outfits work. they pay about half price. They find people in terrible financial or personal situations and take advantage of them.

      • OutWest says:

        That has been my experience as well. Thay are bottom feeders looking for a weak hand.

  12. drifterprof says:

    As a child growing up in the San Francisco area in the 1950s, I loved the car trips up to Seattle once or twice a year to visit the grandparents. Two-lane road, with real mom & pop restaurants, many cheap places to stop (camp or motel). Sometimes a daunting adventure of crossing the Cascades mountain pass in snow season.

    Then after some crazy trips in late teens and early adulthood, for me cars became mainly utility investments. Sure, I still loved to drive long trips and enjoy nature’s beauty in the Western states. But gradually everything seemed to get more and more in-your-face privately owned (in the “keep off” or “pay through the nose” sense). Traveling became so mundanely set up and regimented. Very little feeling of freedom or discovery, just a series of creepy travel stop centers.

    Finally, day-to-day driving started to seem unnecessarily stressful to me. I became an un-American male. Wife can do it.

    Long ago I recall reading a futurist idea was that cars (or some version of them) would automatically connect up like modules, sort of like a train, when traveling on thoroughfares (saving energy and reducing traffic problems). Maybe something like that will eventually evolve, where one has an individual compartment but is using public transportation.

  13. Miatadon says:

    Wolf, if you are going to write about driving in America, maybe next time include the driving habits of people these days. I’m 72, a lifelong Californian and started driving when I was 15 on dirt roads. I used to love to drive, but now I’m usually on edge and praying another vehicle won’t collide with mine, as I’ve had so many close calls. Most outings these days include at least one observation of another driver acting insane; like multiple lane changes at 90 mph in order to exit a freeway, running red lights, or passing other cars when there is a curve ahead. Too many drivers seem to reflect the American mindset of “me first,” “f-you,” and “I can do anything I want, and I don’t care if it endangers anyone else.”

    • Max Power says:

      Yeah, combine that increasingly aggressive driving behavior with the epidemic of distracted drivers paying more attention to their phone than the road and you have a perfect storm of increasingly dangerous driving condition.

      That’s one of the reasons I installed a dash cam in my car.

    • BrakeGuy says:

      These days cars and especially light trucks handle way better, mainly because of driver support and intervention by the so-called safety systems. These systems give average drivers more control, or at least warn them of impending loss of control or loss of headway to another object. Physics being physics is the reason accident rates have not gone down much, if at all with large scale implementation of these driver assist systems though. Wait until more vehicles have level 4 autonomous control. You’ll be able read Wolf Street while “driving” without fear of death, just ask Elon.

      • BeaV says:

        “the reason accident rates have not gone down much”

        Cars get smarter >> drivers get dumber.

    • Wolf Richter says:


      What you describe has always been going on. I think in our younger years we’re more tolerant of this behavior and may even participated in it — I used to do some crazy stuff — but in our wiser years, we become intolerant of it because we have a much better understanding of the risks. A bunch of my friends from high school never made it to those wiser years. I had a few close calls too. After a while, the brain grows up and sees the risks — if the brain is still around.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        i’ll say it again-pilot error, pilot error, pilot error…

        may we all find a training constant and a better day…

        • There are bold pilots, and there are old pilots, but there are no old bold pilots.
          –My uncle who flew a fighter plane in the battle of Okinawa

        • NBay says:

          Yep, I deserved every “kid’s play” broken bone or laceration I’ve got, but there is always that left turn in front of you lurking. Like we agreed on long ago, if you ride a lot, you WILL crash.
          I’m here by total blind luck (and some skill) and I know it.

    • HotTub says:

      With the better quality cars on the roads these days, I see it as “high performance cars; low performance drivers”.

    • lenert says:

      Everything around you is bigger, faster, more complicated and everyone’s attention is now divided by making and taking these calls, texts, instas etc. and flashing their 9s. It’s supply-side at its finest. Don’t blame the people – blame the people.

  14. Immutable says:

    Yes, defensive driving is the rule nowadays. One must constantly scan the lanes on both sides for potential collisions. A dash camera is a requirement.

    • Sierra7 says:

      Remember the “suicide lanes”.
      Three lanes. One for each direction. Middle for both direction passing!

      • Masked Ghost says:

        I can remember hairpin curves, and one lane bridges.

        One of the weirdest tho, was a two lane bridge in LaChapeau, Ontario, that had a hairpin curve in the middle of it.

  15. topcat says:

    A friend of mine who lives in Boston took his 17 year old son on road a trip across the USA coast to coast to show him the country, he himslef had done the trip when he was 17. This was about 15 years ago. At the end of it he said to me that it was pretty depressing to see that the places and towns were all the same, just one endless homogeneous series of shopping malls, Mc.D / Burger king and big trucks driving endlessly back and forth. This is happening also in Europe where shopping is the main pastime for much of the population. There are maybe 10 companies that dominate all of retail and you see them everywhere you go. Travelling to broaden the mind is becomming pointless because everywhere is the same.

    • georgist says:

      David Bowie wrote “I’m afraid of Americans” when he went to Java and there was a McDonalds.

      I really hate what America did to the UK. It’s a pale imitation of itself after total capitalism has ruined it.

      USA towns are so depressing, with their car centric shopping strips. Dead behind the eyes.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Didn’t the U.K. rule most of the world at one time? What happened? Don’t blame it on America!

        • topcat says:

          Well England did invent industrial processes, however the US invented mass production and then marketing & advertising which were needed to sell all of the excess stuff that no one needed or wanted.
          America needs to figure out how to slow down and take it easy.

        • Old School says:

          The advent of corporate food and hotel services had some upsides. When I was small it was a real adventure when deciding where to eat or spend the night as there was mostly mom and pops. Nationwide chains offered a vanilla choice that you knew what to expect.

    • DawnsEarlyLight says:

      People always going somewhere, probably using google to get somewhere direct, in the shortest time possible. Get away from the interstates and main highways, explore the backroads, camp out in a tent, take your time. The USA has certainly evolved over the years. Open your mind, take the blinders off, or YOU can just visit the local strip mall.

    • OrcasEatSharks says:

      This is why cities like Boston and Seattle are so expensive, because they are so rare in America. Some of the posters here like to scoff at these “liberal cities” but cities like Boston and Seattle have thousands of independent and local stores, restaurants, and are much more interesting to walk around than say Dallas or Atlanta. The folks here full of schadenfreude over the demise of cities don’t realize how depressing and cloned their suburban tract subdivision existence really is.

      If you live in the exurbs of Boston, you might as well live in the exurbs of Louisville and save your money. They are all pretty much the same.

  16. David Hall says:

    When I lived in the DC metro area, the subway/trains were packed during rush hour. The beltway slowed to a crawl. If I was at 17th and L about 5:00 PM, it was a long wait to get to a major traffic artery as parking garages emptied out. Some WFH might be good for the soul and reduce exhaust fumes.

    Living 40 miles from a Walmart is not convenient. Less than five miles is better. Amazon makes it so I do not need to drive to the big city for specialty items.

    Some visited family in far away places during holidays and vacations. My brother lives in Florida and bought a ski condo in VT. He and his wife go back and forth to visit grandchildren there. One day cheap oil will be gone.

  17. MiTurn says:

    Looking forward to the end of summer, when all those RVers and other travelers get off of my local roads! Sometimes bumper to bumper. The day after Labor Day is always one of the best days of the year.

    I know, I’m grumpy.


    • VintageVNvet says:

      Certainly can relate to that mit:
      Back in the late ’40s to ’60s, before Mr. Carrier ruined the place,,, we local SWFL natives loved the arrival of Easter, when, basically, all the ”seasonal visitors” left to go back up north and we had our paradise back…
      Sarasota county in those days had just about one tenth the winter season population from approximately April until November.
      It was about 3,000 permanent folks in mid 1940s, versus approximately 700,000 these days!!!
      Naples High School had a graduating class of 98 kids in 1963, and the Kwik Chek was the only ”super market” in the county!

  18. Chris Herbert says:

    Like much else about the future, I have very few confident predictions about what transportation will be like. The only one I have is that it won’t look like it is today.

    • Ron says:

      Back to horses at some point

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Nah Ron, it will be ‘back to the future’ in some way or another IMO.
        Most likely scenario I am seeing, the timing depending on how soon all the ”young turks” in the theoretical physics arena are able to complete and extend Einstein’s General Theory, is a ”gravity mirror” mechanism such that transportation of goods and people actually produces a net of excess energy rather than consuming energy.
        Seems like the theoretical basis is almost established.
        Another would be harvesting the energy of what are now called black holes, but are most likely actually tunnels between way points.
        Lots of good stuff going on that will produce an abundance of non fueled energy once the physics are understood and the engineering is perfected.

        • Nathan Dumbrowski says:

          Agree energy creation will reach a tipping point. But then the challenge becomes distribution. Wireless power a la Tesla? Did some research into this to try to profit. Most of the huge players are very deep into the research (Siemens and others).

          But even with “free” energy there will be limitations on how to store, deliver and safely provide it to the endpoints

    • lenert says:

      It’s the same as before, just different.

  19. Micheal Engel says:

    1) Afghan rapid collapse.
    2) US + Afghan forces will start their counterattacks. They will send the Taliban back to the mountains for the winter tranquility.
    3) The invincible Taliban is too small, too dispersed to control Afghanistan.
    4) US gov changed it’s mind.
    5) The bloody Sept 11 2001 never ending Iraq + Afghanistan.
    6) SPX will not rest.

  20. Micheal Engel says:

    A 78 year old Las Vegas landlord shot to death two women and injured one man, due to .eviction overextended delays

  21. DawnsEarlyLight says:

    Do you even live in the USA, or are you a he says, she says listener for your perspective?

  22. Micheal Engel says:

    1) Since Nixon DXY plunged to 2009 fractal zone.
    2) We lost ARAMCO to beef up NATO, but we won Egypt and Mao.
    3) We decay because our zombie state is in the denominator. We deflate
    and come back.
    4) Since Sept 11 2001 our singularity expanded to Iraq & Afghanistan.
    5) We made new friends to surround Iran.

  23. Tony of CA says:

    With remote work here to stay and insane politics, the major city centers are finished.

  24. Prof. Emeritus says:

    Those mass transit occupancy rates are extremely scary.
    First of all: the sector is a huuuge employer and while jobs related to public transportation are generally considered safe from immediate layoffs and such, who is going to convince policy makers of it’s importance with the charts found in the article?
    And more importantly: why would anyone use recovery funds and infrastructure bills to build railroads and buses if there’s clearly no demand for it?
    I’m not one of those naive souls who believes public transportation is the cure for all problems of our society (while cars are of course the cause of these isseus), but if those numbers will reflect long-term choices of the general public then it’s au revoir for many lines around the world. The start of school season is just around the corner, so there’s hope for an uptick, but I’m sure many consultants tasked with budget cuts already has mass transit in their crosshairs. Tragedy of the commons all over again…

  25. Auldyin says:

    Interesting data as usual, W
    Brings back memories of where the numbers came from, in the old days. We had a full-time van team of guys who stretched and pinned pneumatic rubber tubes across the road which pumped a diaphragm on a mechanical counter. For speeds 2 tubes a measured distance apart were used and drivers thought it was the ‘fuzz’ and slowed down so they were never accurate.
    Around mid nineties I think, inductive loops began to be set permanently into the road, but they were expensive initially. A pair could do speed and electronically they could do length to distinguish commercials. That was so long ago I don’t have a clue what they use now, maybe radar or infra red.
    Glad to see somebody is still churning out the numbers thirty years later.

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