Transportation and the New Generation

Why Young People Are Driving Less and What It Means for Transportation Policy

During the second half of the 20th century, the total number of miles driven in America steadily increased. Then, at the turn of the century, the trend changed. Americans now drive less than we did in the mid-2000s—both in absolute and per-capita terms.


Why Young People Are Driving Less and What It Means for Transportation Policy

Maryland PIRG Foundation

Today’s youth are leading this decline in vehicle-miles traveled. Some young people do not drive at all because they either do not own a car or do not have a license. Those who do drive are taking fewer trips and driving shorter distances. At the same time, more young people are instead choosing to walk, bike or take public transportation, or to stay connected using mobile technologies instead of traveling.

There is now little room for doubt: many Americans’ transportation needs and desires are changing. And they are changing fastest among the people who have the most to gain or lose from the investments we make in new transportation infrastructure: the young.

This report documents the many ways in which young people are changing their transportation behavior and their desires for the future—and argues that many of those changes are here to stay. An earlier generation of American leaders embraced and worked toward a vision of a more mobile America linked by highways and automobiles. Today, for better and for worse, we are living their legacy. Will America’s policy-makers have the dexterity, the vision and the courage to meet these changing needs—and by so doing, put America on a path to a cleaner, more resilient  transportation system that is less dependent on oil?