Leading Sustainable Organizations
New research shows that young people in the U.S., Canada, Germany, South Korea, and other countries are driving less, and, in the U.S., biking more and using public transportation in significantly higher numbers.
“Transportation and the New Generation: Why Young People are Driving Less and What it Means for Transportation Policy,” [pdf] a report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and the Frontier Group, includes these statistics:
- Driving is down: The number of vehicle miles traveled by 16 to 34-year-olds in the U.S. dropped 23% between 2001 and 2009. As well, the share of 14 to 34-year-olds without driver’s licenses grew between 2001 and 2010 from 21% to 26%.
- Biking is up: In 2009, 16 to 34-year-olds in the U.S. took 24% more bike trips than in 2001 – even with that age group shrinking in size by 2%.
- Public Transport is up: Public transport use by that same group also rose in the same period — passenger miles traveled are up by a huge 40%.
The report says that reductions in driving are “a phenomenon becoming characteristic of developed countries.” A 2011 study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute showed that seven developed countries — Canada, Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Japan, South Korea and Germany — had decreases in the percentage of young people with driver’s licenses. As well, “vehicle-miles traveled have either leveled off or fallen in Western European countries including Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Spain.”
Among the reasons cited for the changes in the U.S.:
- It’s easier to use a phone when you’re not driving. “Public transportation is more compatible with a lifestyle based on mobility and peer-to-peer connectivity than driving,” notes the study.
- Environmental commitment. In a KRC Zipcar survey, 16% of 18 to 34-year-olds said they strongly agreed with the statement, “I want to protect the environment, so I drive less.” Only about 9% of older generations said the same thing.
- Bike-sharing programs are more available. Technology “makes bike-sharing programs possible and convenient,” says the study. In just the past two years, at least nine U.S.