There is a lot of talk about whether us crazy Gen-Y kids are just too broke and irresponsible to afford the responsibility of a car, or if we genuinely don’t see them as an important part of life. A lot of people seem to think that once we grow up, get corporate jobs and move to the suburbs that we will finally get our hands on a sensible Honda Civic, but is that really the case?
According to a new report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, that’s less likely to happen than our Baby Boomer parents seem to think. “The Driving Boom is over,” the report claims. “If the Millenial-led decline in per-capita driving continues for another dozen years … total vehicle travel in the United States could remain well below its 2007 peak through at least 2040 – despite a 21 percent increase in population.”
After 60 years of steady growth, total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and VMT per capita have been falling steadily since 2007. Total VMT is now at 2004 levels, and VMT per capita is all the way down to 1996 levels. It’s all the fault of the millenials, too. The report shows that people ages 16-34 drove about 23% fewer miles in 2009 than in 2001. Perhaps the most interesting part is that a good portion of this group was also driving in 2001, putting them well into their 30s and still uninterested in driving.
Of course high gas prices and the recession make everyone think twice about driving, but millenials are still more likely to walk, bike, take the bus or train, or utilize a growing car-sharing program to get where they need to be. This also explains why walkable urban areas are seeing a boost in younger residents, and why ridesharing and bikesharing programs are becoming a business opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs.
If this really is the case, it’s a huge shift for American culture as we know it and could encourage public transportation efforts in cities that want to attract and hold on to younger populations. As someone who lives in the city but still needs a car because of the severe lack of public transportation, I really only see this as a good thing.
I would absolutely love the ability to live without a car and definitely think it is an option for me in the future. Do you live without a car? If not, do you think you could do it where you live?
Image CC licensed by Andrew Currie