As with physical sprawl, social sprawl generally causes fuel consumption to increase, through initiating several mechanisms leading to both increased vehicle ownership and increased vehicle travel.
Understanding the “urbanization of the suburbs” may provide insight into future vehicle ownership levels and in turn fuel demand. At the margin, would changes in suburban design prompt households to reduce vehicle ownership?
Monthly debt payments of several hundred dollars, or more, mean that personal vehicle ownership may become impacted. At the margin, households may choose to own fewer vehicles to account for the need to make student loan payments.
If future population growth occurs in suburbs of lower-density and higher income, then vehicle ownership will likely rise, whereas if future population growth gathers in higher-density, lower-income cities, vehicle ownership may decline.
The largest proportion of commuting in U.S. metropolitan areas occurs from suburb-to-suburb, standing at 40 percent of metropolitan commuters as of 2015.