Tuesday, May 28, 2013
The Driving Boom is Over
Many recent pieces of research on drivers in the U.S. have confirmed that today's younger generations are driving less than their parents due to a variety of factors, including the proliferation of Internet technologies that make trips to a friend's house, or to the local mall less necessary. But a new piece of research from the non-profit U.S. PIRG Education Fund attempts to quantify exactly how much of an effect the driving-averse millennial generation will have on future traffic volumes.
As the average number of miles driven by Americans heads into its eighth year of decline, the PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups) report finds that the slowdown in driving is likely to continue for decades, and we won't return to 2007 driving levels until at least 2040. Baby Boomers are moving out of the phase in their life when they do the most commuting, while Millennials move into that phase. These demographic changes and other factors will likely keep driving down according to the report, "A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America's Future."
"The Driving Boom is over," said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Analyst at the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and co-author of the report. "The constant increases we saw in driving up until 2005 show no sign of returning. As more and more Millennials become adults, and their tendency to drive less becomes the norm, the reduction in driving will be even larger."
Miles driven per capita peaked in 2004; the total number of miles driven by Americans peaked in 2007. The average American currently drives no more miles than at the end of President Clinton's first term.
The Millennial generation is leading the change in transportation trends. 16 to 34-year-olds drove a whopping 23 percent fewer miles on average in 2009 than in 2001, the greatest decline in driving of any age group. In addition, Millennials are more likely to want to live in urban and walkable neighborhoods and are more open to non-driving forms of transportation than the older generation of Americans.
The report finds that under any reasonable scenario, the number of miles driven annually will be far fewer in the future than if Baby Boom trends had continued. During the second half of the twentieth century, low gas prices, rapid suburbanization, and an ever-increasing number of women commuters entering the workforce fueled the Driving Boom. The factors that defined that period have since taken a back seat. Under some conservative scenarios outlined by the report, driving won't ever regain its 2007 peak during the range of the study, which extends to 2040.