Americans have been driving less in recent years in the face of growing gas prices and financial difficulties. Studies have shown that the average American drove 6 miles less in 2011 than in 2004. Nowhere has this drop in driving been more apparent than in Generation Y.
A new study done by Zipcar shows that many Gen Y-ers, also known as Millennials (people between the ages of 18 and 34), are striving to drive less. Reuters reports that the average number of miles traveled in a personal vehicle for Generation-Y-aged people dropped 23 percent between 2001 and 2009.
What elements have propelled this shift in transportation habits? The advent of social media and technology have aided this quest for alternatives to car ownership. People can now connect with family members more readily without traveling to different locations and social media makes it easier to connect to public transport schedules.
Young people have also faced an unstable economy and often view personal vehicles as a burdensome and undesirable rite of passage which incurs monetary obligations.
Although money is not the only incentive for ditching the car, many young people have discovered the financial upsides to getting rid of a personal vehicle. Shareable quotes Paul Davis’ view on the matter: “For the price of a regular checkup and a couple months of insurance, you can get a smartphone, a transit card and a decent bike and ditch the headaches and the endless money drain that come with even a hybrid.”
Environmental concerns have also topped the reasons why young adults are searching for alternative transportation. While many people between the ages of 18 and 34 do not claim the environment as their top priority for driving less, it remains a central theme in discussions of car ownership.
That same Zipcar study showed that Generation Y-ers were the most likely to want to use media sharing programs, car sharing opportunities and even vacation sharing programs compared to people over the age of 35. In fact over half of Gen Y-ers said they were interested in car sharing programs compared to 10 percent of people polled over the age of 55.
While the amount Americans drive overall is down, Reuters points out that many older people are driving more. The University of Michigan conducted a study in which they found that people 70 and older make up 10 percent of drivers on the road, a formidable number.
Whether these numbers could change as Millennials grow older is yet to be seen. Overall, the results of these studies show that policy makers need to focus much more attention on shifting policies away from road construction and maintenance to public transit and transport sharing programs geared at a group of consumers open and excited about alternatives to independent car ownership.
Photo Credit: Osvaldo Gago