Young People Drive Less and Bike More, Study Finds
The Millennial generation is unique for many reasons: We have different attitudes towards marriage equality, immigration, and the role of government in our lives. Apparently, we also have unique travel habits.
A new study by the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and the Frontier Group includes data depicting young Americans' travel trends in recent decades.
For instance, the "Vehicle Miles Traveled" has increased steadily since World War II, but, overall VMT has decreased by 6 percent since 2004 and the VMT among 14-34 year olds has decreased 23 percent between 2001 and 2009.
So why is this happening?
Phineas Baxandall of U.S. PIRG said one explanation is that the Millennial generation is more environmentally conscious than previous generations, making us more likely to reject cars in an effort to be more green. Young people also tend to prefer city-living, minimizing their need to own and drive a car thanks to accessible public transportation.
An emerging orientation toward shared accessibility as opposed to individual ownership—seen in the car- and bike-sharing and other communal industries—and the use of smartphones to make trips more efficient has also cut our travel distances drastically.
So what does this all mean for the future of transportation in the United States?
For now, experts suggest following a motto of "do no harm," meaning that we should fix the roads we already have, invest in finding sustainable travel alternatives, and continue research on these trends.
As the report notes:
Federal and local governments have historically made massive investments in new highway capacity on the assumption that driving will continue to increase at a rapid and steady pace. The changing transportation preferences of young people—and Americans overall—throw those assumptions into doubt. The time has come for transportation policy to reflect the needs and desires of today’s Americans—not the worn-out conventional wisdom from days gone by.
It seems as though the Millennials have forced the transportation policy and political communities to re-think the future of transportation in the United States, shifting toward one that is more sustainable and environmentally friendly than our current system.
Sydney Hofferth is a Communications Intern for Campus Progress. You can follow her on twitter at @squidhoff10.