“From 2001 and 2009, the average annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by young people (16 to 34-year-olds) decreased from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita — a drop of 23 percent.” This news comes via a report titled Why Young People Are Driving Less and What It Means for Transportation Policy recently released by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and The Frontier Group.
But the study didn’t just find that today’s young folk are driving less, it also found that they’re cycling more: “In 2009, 16 to 34-year-olds as a whole took 24 percent more bike trips than they took in 2001.”
The overall gist of the public interest study is that young people (Generation Y) are driving change when it comes to transportation. More specifically, states the study: “Young people are driving less for a host of reasons — higher gas prices, new licensing laws, improvements in technology that support alternative transportation, and changes in Generation Y’s values and preferences — all factors that are likely to have an impact for years to come.”
Whereas during the second half of the 20th century, America’s driving culture — and the miles driven — increased, the trend that’s now being pioneered by America’s youth seems to be a complete shift in the direction of less driving. The study suggests that more youth are living in urban environments where alternative transportation is easier and more readily available, and also states that social media has done its part to reduce people’s need to drive. Within the study, a young woman was quoted from an article in The Washington Post as saying: “If I couldn’t get a ride to see my friend who lives a town over, I could talk on IM… or Skype.” The digital world, she said, ‘made it very easy not to drive’.”
Whatever the reasons, young people today are driving less and — as the study brings home — the transportation policies of our country need to begin to reflect this trend.
“America’s transportation policies have long been predicated on the assumption that driving will continue to increase. The changing transportation preferences of young people—and Americans overall—throw that assumption into doubt. Transportation decision-makers at all levels—federal, state and local—need to understand the trends that are leading to the reduction in driving among young people and engage in a thorough reconsideration of America’s transportation policy-making to ensure that it serves both the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s young Americans and moves the nation toward a cleaner, more sustainable and economically vibrant future.”
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