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Will Millennials Become More Interested In Owning Cars? Maybe Not…

Zipcar car share

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

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Richard Azia

    According to the book Traffic cars spend 95 percent of their time parked. In London you can rent cars by the hour. In Switzerland you can join Mobility, and have cars available for use at various stations. Ride sharing via apps like Tooxme allow drivers, and passengers, to advertise and then share journeys from one point to another. As a result of certain technological innovations, unlocking cars with phones for example, car rental and sharing make car sharing simpler, and thus more appealing.

  • http://twitter.com/ivori David Ivory

    Never owned a car and I’m 48…and now that I live in Hong Kong it is a ridiculous idea, and when I return to New Zealand I just rent a car to get around but begrudge it.

    Modern cities need to be designed around public transport first, and as Auckland doubles in size there is a huge opportunity to transition away from a car centric lifestyle to one where renting a car for occasions, but using public transport and biking is a reasonable way of doing things.

    Sometimes I think I’m living in the future – and if so then the future is fine… without cars.

  • Nightvid Cole

    Right now I’m stuck living on a grad student stipend with no side
    income – and combined with the fact that insurance companies want to
    charge such ridiculous amounts these days even on a relatively
    inexpensive used vehicle, I just walk everywhere and I’m ok financially. If an occasion arises that requires driving, there is Zipcar in my area, but in my day to day life I just walk.

    Even when I make more money, I will only want to own a car if I don’t live in a dense urban area. What good does it do to save half an hour on travel time if it takes half an hour to find parking?