Youth Drive Trend Away From Cars

Media Contacts

CoPIRG Foundation

New Report: Long-Term Drop in How Much People Drive, Youth Desire More Transportation Options

A new report released today by the CoPIRG Foundation demonstrates that Coloradans and Americans have been driving less since the middle of last decade. The report, Transportation and the New Generation: Why Young People are Driving Less and What it Means for Transportation Policy, shows that young people in particular are decreasing the amount they drive and increasing their use of transportation alternatives.

“For the first time in two generations, there has been a significant shift in how many miles Coloradans are driving each year,” said Danny Katz, Director for CoPIRG Foundation. “Colorado needs to understand these trends when deciding how to focus our future transportation investments, especially when transportation dollars are so scarce.”

Transportation and the New Generation reveals that for the first time since World War II, Americans are driving less and have been doing so since the middle of last decade. The report shows that by 2011, the average American was driving 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004. In Colorado, per capita vehicle miles traveled dropped between 2005 and 2010 by 10 percent and 5 percent from 2000.

This trend away from driving is even more pronounced among young people. The average young person (age 16-34) drove 20 percent fewer miles in 2009 than the average young person in 2001.

“Decision makers need to pay attention to these emerging trends to make sure that Colorado’s transportation infrastructure will meet our future needs,” said Katz.

According to the report, there are a variety of reasons youth are driving less.  Technology plays a big role with social media capabilities replacing the need for some trips to your friend’s house. In addition, technology has made accessing public transportation easier and has allowed for the growth of alternatives like car share programs. Finally, technology also makes alternatives to driving more desirable with many youth preferring to use time in transit to surf the web and text. Between 2001 and 2009, the annual number of miles traveled by 16 to 34 year olds on public transit such as trains and buses increased by 40 percent.

“I would rather have good public transportation options than the hassle and expense of driving a car,” said Sarah McGuire, a student at the University of Colorado Denver. “Our leaders should focus on building a 21st century transportation network that provides lots of alternatives to driving.”

Besides riding transportation, youth are also increasingly choosing other transportation alternatives. Between 2001 and 2009, 18 to 34 year olds took 24% more bike trips despite shrinking in size by 2 percent and walked to destinations 16% more frequently.

“This trend began before the economic downturn and so this is not just because of the bad economy,” concluded Katz. “Even youth who have jobs and live in wealthier households are driving less. Colorado has an opportunity to take advantage of this trend by focusing more resources on alternatives.”

The report can be downloaded at here.