Study Shows More Americans Are Giving Up Their Cars

A new study by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group Foundation (CoPIRG) has found that young Americans are increasingly relying on public transportation rather than driving. The average American drove 6% fewer miles in 2011 than in 2004 – but for those between the ages of 16 and 34, the number of miles has dropped by an impressive 23%. That’s an average of 10,300 miles a year reduced to 7,900.

But why? CoPIRG points to a few different factors. While high gas prices and the downtrodden economy are part of the picture, there’s actually a few other important shifts taking place right now as well. And the authors of the study predict that even once the economy recovers, young Americans will continue to rely increasingly on public transit.

One reason is the rise of viable alternatives to car ownership. While some young people will take the bus when possible but drive part of the time, it’s becoming more feasible due to the growth of car- and bike-sharing services for them to get rid of their cars entirely, only driving when absolutely necessary.

Young people are also purposely moving to more convenient areas. They are most likely to settle in neighborhoods with nearby shopping, restaurants, schools, and accessible public transit rather than areas with sprawl. And, yes, many of those interviewed cited concern about the environment as a reason they try to find alternate modes of transportation.

CoPIRG points out that there are also legal and financial barriers to driving. Changes in driving laws are making it harder for teens to obtain driver’s licenses by sometimes requiring costly training and restricting the hours and situations in which they are allowed to drive.

These laws have been proven to keep novice drivers safer, but for many teens, taking the bus is more convenient and more affordable. The study also notes that public transit allows users to talk on the phone, text, or work on their computer safely during their commute, making it more technology-friendly than driving.

The whole report is available for free on CoPIRG’s website.


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Photo credit: Rene Schwietzke


Sheri P.
Sheri P6 years ago

i think it's great! i wish i lived closer to work so i could just walk and/or bike wherever i needed to...

Loo Samantha
Loo sam6 years ago

thank you

KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Jim Coke
Jim Coke6 years ago

Luvenia V.: What is your source of information to support the first two sentences of your recent post?

iii q.
g d c6 years ago


Margaret G.
Margaret Garside6 years ago

People will use public transportation if it's available. I know several people in larger cities (Portland, Seattle, Chicago) who either don't own cars or don't use them much because the public transportation is so good. We need more public investment in this. Better air, less traffic, no losers.

Laura T.
Laura T6 years ago

I would give up my car if there was mass transit available. Sadly the nearest bus route to my home is over 2 miles away and only goes on a narrow loop through town so it is worthless. I take Amtrak when I can but many places I would like to travel that way is impossible because the routes were discontinued decades ago and in many cases the tracks torn out. Flying is getting not only too expensive but too inconvenient. I can travel from Detroit to Chicago faster by train than going by air, cheaper too. Make mass transit available and I'll take it.

Luvenia V.
Luvenia V6 years ago

Before the takeover of Corporations only about one person in ten owned a car in the cities. The car manufacturers couldn’t stand having mass transit so they systematically bought them out and got rid of them. There are beautiful cities around the world where cars are forbidden to enter and they must use public transportation. There are cities that charge cars a large fee for driving in their cities and the difference in THEIR cities and OUR cities is HUGE. Imagine walking in NY without the worry of toxic exhaust or being hit by a car. Watch some travel shows and see what a thrill it would be to walk or bike through places where you can breathe clean air. Someone tell me again how America is number ONE.

Terry Vanderbush
Terry V6 years ago

barrels of oil should be HIGHLY taxed, like cigarettes are. Oil products and by products are the WORST of the WORST.

Grace B.
Grace B6 years ago

There are also now more convenient bike programs where you can pick up and drop off bikes at numerous locations around the city. This is also happening with cars. Our University just introduce Zip cars with the same principle. I still have a car, but am beginning to wonder if it's worth the expense when I can ride my bike and could just use a zip car when I needed to drive. Between buses and these options it's a lot more attractive.