The Colorado branch of the Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) has released a study finding that the “driving boom” — a six-decade period of steady increases in per-capita driving in the United States — has ended, as Garrison Wells writes for The Gazette. This is because the youngest generation of drivers, the Millennials, are driving less than previous generations of Americans. Co-PIRG produced the report with the Frontier Group, Monte Whaley writes for The Denver Post.
Wells reports that U.S. PIRG hopes these findings will result in more funding for public transportation and other alternate means of travel. He quotes Danny Katz, director of CoPIRG, as saying, “It looks like a major difference between two generations — millennials and baby boomers.” Boomers, Katz said, grew up during a time when gas prices were low and the population was moving from cities to the suburbs, where cars were essential, as there was little or no public transportation.
There was rapid job growth at that time, making it necessary for large numbers of people to have a way to get to their workplaces. Indeed, between the end of World War II and 2004, Americans drove more and more miles almost every year, according to the study.
Whaley writes about some reasons for the change in driving habits:
In fact, Millennials are almost downright apathetic about cars, compared to their parents and grandparents, the report said.
It cites a 2011 survey done by computer networking company Cisco, that said two out of three college students would choose an Internet connection over access to a car.
Less than 15 percent of Millennials describe themselves as ‘car enthusiasts’ as opposed to 30 percent of Baby Boomers, the report also said.
Wells writes that Millennials, ages 16 to 34, live in a different culture, one of technology:
They shop and bank online, are more open to alternative forms of transportation such as scooters and bicycles, prefer living in close-knit, walkable communities and are more apt to use public transportation, Katz said.
They live in an age where a fill-up can soar past $50, depending on the kind of vehicle you drive.
‘They don’t have to go to their friend’s house,’ Katz said. ‘They can Skype with them. Trips are being replaced.’
And now, Americans are driving the same number of miles they did in 2004, Wells writes. They are still moving around, but in different ways. In 2011, Americans took almost 10% more trips on public transportation than in 2005, and also commuted more miles by bicycle and walking.
Millennials will be the largest group in the peak driving age of 35 to 54 by the year 2030, and will be until 2040. Whaley writes that on average, Millennials drove 23% fewer miles in 2009 than they did in 2001. Katz said the economic recession is to blame for some of that, but not all.
Katz told Wells that governments have not recognized the decrease in driving, and continue to add highways instead of repairing existing ones. Instead, officials need find ways to help Americans drive less, by providing more funding for public transportation (including trains), bicycling, and other alternative transportation modes, and pedestrian-friendly areas. CoPIRG will present its report to the Colorado Springs City Council later this summer, Wells writes.
Image by cat1788 (Cat).