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Some millennials choose apps over car ownership

Wednesday - 10/2/2013, 8:10am  ET

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Many millennials are ditching cars and turning to their smartphones to hitch rides. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON - They're younger than 30 and they're thumbing their noses at owning cars. Instead, millennials are getting around with their smartphones.

Millennials, especially in the D.C. area, are using their phones to catch a ride on the next bus or to locate a nearby Zipcar, according to a new study from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

"They aren't even feeling the need to purchase a car anymore. Five percent of people who have been using the Capital Bikeshare program have actually sold a vehicle since joining the service," says Jaimie Woo with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Smartphone apps make it easy to snub car ownership, Woo says.

"Being able to track where the Metro is going, or where the bus is coming from using just their iPhones or their smartphones," is easy, she says.

The shift represents a change in culture and debt, Phineas Baxandall at U.S. PIRG says.

"For Baby Boomers, driving one's car represented freedom and spontaneity. Today -- especially for younger people -- owning a car is likely to represent big expenses and parking hassles. Meanwhile, technology and vehicle-sharing are making it easier not to own a car or for households to drive less," Baxandall said in a news release.

Many can't afford a car until their student debts are paid and they land full-time jobs. Car- and ride-sharing apps help fill the gap in the meantime.

"People are really taking advantage of them and using personal vehicles a lot less," Woo says.

Although biking and ride-sharing might not be very useful for anyone commuting to the District from far-off counties, they work great for people living near colleges and universities.

"That's kind of where a lot of new ideas start. As these new technologies and these new ideas are expanding, we do think that people will keep continuing to take advantage of that."

In the District, drivers have reduced their driving miles by more than 21 percent per person since 2003, according to PIRG.

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