A new report released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund demonstrates that Americans have been driving less since the middle of last decade. The report, Transportation and the New Generation: Why Young People are Driving Less and What it Means for Transportation Policy, shows that young people in particular are decreasing the amount they drive and increasing their use of transportation alternatives.
“For the first time in two generations, there has been a significant shift in how many miles Americans are driving each year,” said Serena Unrein, Public Interest Advocate for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “America needs to understand these trends when deciding how to focus our future transportation investments, especially when transportation dollars are so scarce.”
Transportation and the New Generation reveals that for the first time since World War II, Americans are driving less. The report showed that by 2011, the average American was driving 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004.
This trend away from driving is even more pronounced among young people. The average young person (age 16-34) drove 20 percent fewer miles in 2009 than the average young person in 2001. The report also notes that a growing number of young Americans do not have driver’s licenses; from 2000 to 2010, the share of 14 to 34-year-olds without a license increased from 21 percent to 26 percent.
“With one of our largest ridership groups being between the ages of 18 – 24, we have to provide them frequent and comprehensive mobility choices that support their lifestyle,” said Valley Metro CEO Steve Banta. “The total transit network, which is many modes working in concert, will help keep our young people in the region and support our local economy.”
“I would rather have good public transportation options than the hassle and expense of driving a car,” said Nicole Barrett, a student at Arizona State University’s downtown Phoenix campus. “It’s time for our leaders to stop debating how much to spend expanding our grandparents’ transportation network and start figuring out how to build the infrastructure that my generation will need for the future.”
“The shift away from six decades of increasing vehicle travel to a new reality of slow-growing or even declining vehicle travel has potentially seismic implications for transportation policy,” says Benjamin Davis, analyst with Frontier Group. “It calls into question the very wisdom of our current transportation investment priorities.”
“America’s transportation preferences appear to be changing. Our elected officials need to make transportation decisions based on the real needs of Americans in the 21st century,” concluded Unrein.