People in my generation are driving significantly less than younger people only a decade ago, according to a new report by U.S. PIRG:
The trend away from driving has been led by young people. From 2001 and 2009, the average annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by young people (16 to 34-year-olds) decreased from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita – a drop of 23 percent. The trend away from steady growth in driving is likely to be long-lasting – even once the economy recovers. Young people are driving less for a host of reasons – higher gas prices, new licensing laws, improvements in technology that support alternative transportation, and changes in Generation Y’s values and preferences – all factors that are likely to have an impact for years to come.
The recession has played a role in reducing the miles driven in America, especially by young people. People who are unemployed or underemployed have difficulty affording cars, commute to work less frequently if at all, and have less disposable income to spend on traveling for vacation and other entertainment. The trend toward reduced driving, however, has occurred even among young people who are employed and/or are doing well financially.
I know I personally don’t like to drive and try to avoid it. I’m glad to live in perhaps one of the most walkable neighborhoods in the country, even though doing so required me to choose a much smaller apartment than I could afford elsewhere.
I prefer this for two main reasons, one very healthy and one unhealthy. Living in a walkable area simply results in me walking a lot. I walk to get food. I walk to get groceries. If I run out of deodorant, I walk to buy it. As a result I basically force myself to do some exercise in a way I don’t really notice.
The other reason is I like to drink. The thing I love about living in a city is that it is easy to get drinks without worrying about a designated driver or getting home. I wouldn’t be surprised if my generation, thanks to years of anti-drinking and driving campaigns directed at us, is more aware/concerned about this issue.
I think the fact that the Internet makes it possible to get anything I want shipped directly to me also makes city living more convenient.
Long term, there could potentially be some big changes in our national landscape. I think young people will continue to prefer transit-oriented communities. In addition, as baby boomers become older and find it harder to drive they may naturally gravitate to transit-oriented areas as well.
The one thing I could see really changing this likely trend would be Google’s succeess developing a self-driving car. If self-driving cars become a viable mass market product, I could picture that having an impact on development patterns almost as big the original adoption of the car.