Teens are not car crazy; many prefer to hoof it or take mass transit

Published: Monday, April 9 2012 11:00 a.m. MDT

Young Americans are not as car-happy as previous generations, according to a report released last week by the California Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. They're more likely to hoof it, pedal or hop on public transportation than previous generations.

"It's a profound shift in a country where getting a driver's license was long seen as a major milestone on the path to adulthood," notes an article in The San Francisco Chronicle. "The shift is one of several reasons that U.S. gasoline use has fallen since 2006 after rising relentlessly for decades. It also suggests that government should spend less on building new roads and more on offering alternatives."

The trend is not making its debut. For several years, researchers have noticed a drop in driving by young people. Among their explanations are the high cost of gasoline, increasing unemployment among the young, worries about "green" issues like the carbon footprint and global warming and even, as the article notes, "social media technologies that let people hang out with friends even if they aren't in the same place."

Federal Highway Administration data from the National Household Travel Survey shows that the average miles driven annually by those 16 to 34 fell by 23 percent per capita between 2001 and 2009. The miles that same age group traveled on mass transit rose 40 percent.

More teens are choosing not to get a driver's license at all, the report says.

“The shift away from six decades of in­creasing vehicle travel to a new reality of slow-growing or even declining vehicle travel has potentially seismic implica­tions for transportation policy,” said Benjamin Davis, an analyst with Frontier Group in a release accompanying the report. “It calls into question the wisdom of our current transportation investment priorities.”

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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