Jay Walljasper | BeyondChron

Plans are underway to completely rebuild the Metro Center on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. (Dan Coyro -- Santa Cruz Sentinel)According to the pundits and prophets who dominate the media, the future of transportation is all figured out for us.  Cheaper gas prices mean we can still count on our private cars to take us everywhere we want to go in the years to come. The only big change down the road will be driverless autos, which will make long hours behind the wheel less boring and more productive.

But this everything-stays-the-same vision ignores some significant social developments. Americans have actually been driving less per-capita for the past decade, bucking a century-long trend of ever-increasing dependence on automobiles.

This startling turnaround is usually written off as a mere statistical blip caused by the great recession and $4 gas, both of which hit in 2008. But, in fact, the driving decline began several years before that.  (In light of these facts, The Federal Highway Administration recently reduced its forecast for the future growth from driving between 24-44 percent. This is after overestimating the actual rate of driving in 61 consecutive reports to Congress.) Read more