Report: Millennials’ shift away from cars to drive future transportation needs

WASHINGTON — Young people who swap car keys for fare cards and bike locks today are unlikely change their transportation habits much as they age and politicians should take note, according to a new study of millennial driving trends.

A new report finds that Americans drive the same total amount as they did in 2005. At the same time, the number of people taking transit, biking or walking has increased. And the millennial generation — those born between 1983 and 2000 — are leading the shift away from driving.

Changing transportation needs will require lawmakers to invest in mass transit or bike infrastructure, not roads in the future, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s report.

“Millennials seem to be cutting back on their driving and they seem to really prefer to be in walkable communities where they have other options,” says Phineas Baxandall, a senior analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

The report highlights a drop not only in the percentage of young people who take a car to work but also in those who have a driver’s license at all.

Between 1996 and 2010, the percentage of high school seniors with a driver’s license declined from 85 to 73 percent, according to the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety.

Broadly, per-capita driving has dropped among all Americans. Baxandall says the recession was more than a blip.

“The downturn in driving started years before the recession, and it has continued strong now five years into a recovery,” he says.

Millennials are likely to increase their driving time as they reach middle age. But even if they drive the same or less than their parents’ generation, it would represent a “monumental shift in travel trends” akin to the suburban boom in the 1950s, according to the report.

“It’s time for federal and Virginia 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 policymakers shouldn’t be asleep at the wheel,” says PIRG’s Pam Clough in a statement.

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