Peak car (also peak car use or peak travel) is a hypothesis that motor vehicle distance traveled per capita, predominantly by private car, has peaked and will now fall in a sustained manner. The theory was developed as an alternative to the prevailing market saturation model, which suggested that car use would saturate and then remain reasonably constant, and GDP based theories which predict that traffic will increase again as the economy improves, linking recent traffic reductions to the Great Recession.
The theory was proposed following reductions, which have now been observed in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan (early 1990s), New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom (many cities from about 1994) and the United States. Traffic into London fell by 28% between 1994 and 2003 (prior to the introduction of the London congestion charge). A study by Volpe Transportation in 2013 noted that average miles driven by individuals in the United States, has been declining, from 900 miles per month in 2004 to 820 in July 2012, and that the decline had continued since the recent upturn in the US economy.
A number of prominent academics have written in support of the theory, including Emeritus Professor Phil Goodwin, formerly Director of the transport research groups at Oxford University and UCL, and Professor David Metz, a former Chief Scientist of the UK Department of Transport. The theory is disputed by the UK Department for Transport, which predicts that road traffic in the United Kingdom will grow by 50% over the coming 25 years and Professor Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation, who say traffic will start increasing again as the economy improves. Unlike peak oil, a theory based on a reduction in the ability to extract oil due to resource depletion, peak car is attributed to more complex and less understood causes