Another article on changing travel patterns – this time looking at the driving habits of younger Americans:
An April study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that between 2001 and 2009 the average annual vehicle miles traveled by Americans ages 16 to 34 fell by close to a quarter, from 10,300 to 7,900 per capita (four times greater than the drop among all adults), and from 12,800 to 10,700 among those with jobs. At the same time, the amount of bicycling, walking, and public transit ridership increased. And these trends aren’t just among broke millennials. There was an 100 percent increase in public transit usage among young people with incomes over $70,000.
This data corresponds with other studies. Zipcar consistently finds a strong Millennial desire to avoid driving. The National Association of Realtors found that six in ten of surveyed Americans preferred walkable neighborhoods to big houses, with young people leading the way. In 2011, the American Public Transportation Association found that ridership continued to climb, despite draconian budget cuts forcing riders to spend more for less.
The PIRG researchers concluded that this change couldn’t simply be pegged to the economy, but indicates a value shift. Perhaps Millennials have soured not only on the price of cars, gasoline, and upkeep—but also on the hassles of parking, the drudgery of traffic, and the negative effect cars have on urban life, air quality, and personal wellbeing. Or as Michael Hagerty, an auto journalist, wrote for AlterNet last month, many Millennials are “just plain sick of [driving] after spending 16 to 20 years with Suburbans strapped to their asses several hours a day.”
This feels like a bit of a generational issue, with those who reached adulthood after 2000 (roughly) perhaps having quite a different mindset about issues such as transport and urban development, compared to earlier generations. For people of this generation there was always the choice of whether you spent your hard earned part-time job money on a car or on increasingly attractive alternatives like iPods, laptops and snazzy smartphones.
The real problem is that while it is the younger generations who will have to live with the transport and urban planning decisions we make now for decades to come, those very same people seem to have relatively little power in determining the decisions that are made. I suppose this always happens when there are quite significant societal changes and we get there in the end, the real issue is perhaps limiting the damage done by the ‘transport dinosaurs’ in the meanwhile or somehow getting the point across that the world is changing. And “just because you wouldn’t do xyz, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do xyz”.