By Kevin Rector
The Baltimore Sun
The nation’s largest generation — the so-called millennials,born from 1983 to 2000 — have shown less dependence on driving to get around in recent years and aren’t likely to change their ways, according to a new study released Tuesday.
Young people are pushing down the driving mileage per capita in the country for the first time in decades, and are more likely to live in urban centers and to bike or walk to work, said the study by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group Foundation and the Frontier Group.
They are getting driving licenses less frequently, are using public transit more and are delaying forming families — all things that, along with a weak economy in recent years, have pushed them away from relying on vehicles.
Also, Americans just reaching driving age today “have no living memory of consistently cheap gasoline,” the study found. And they’re not likely to see it again in the near future, regardless of what the economy does.
“Many of my peers have left Albuquerque for cities which are less car dependent, such as Denver and Portland” says Dan Majewski, lead content creator for UrbanABQ.com. “If we want to rebuild our local economy, we must focus more of our resources on cycling, walking and mass transit infrastructure.”
The benefits of the shift away from driving vary, from less congestion to less pollution, and transportation policymakers across the country should be taking note, the study’s authors found.
“Millennials are trying to send a message to policy-makers: We want convenient, walkable neighborhoods with many options for how to get around,” said Tony Dutzik, senior analyst at Frontier Group and one of the report’s authors, in a statement. “Unfortunately, many of our nation’s transportation policies work to ensure just the opposite result.”
Federal data on transportation behavior in the United States has shown that between 2001 and 2009, vehicle trips per capita by those aged 16 to 34 declined 15 percent, the study found. During the same period, per capita trips by transit among the same age group increased 4 percent; walking trips increased 16 percent; and biking trips increased 27 percent.
The report calls for greater investment in public transit and biking infrastructure, and for highway funding to be used to repair existing roads rather than build new ones.
“Millennials are different from their parents, and those differences aren’t going away,” said Sean Foran, program director for New Mexico PIRG. “After five years of economic growth with stagnant driving, it’s time for federal and New Mexico governments to wake up to growing evidence that Millennials don’t want to drive as much as their parents did. This change has big implications and policy makers shouldn’t be asleep at the wheel.”