Quantcast
Health

Time to Rethink Roads: Millennials Lead Change in Transportation Trends

Ohio PIRG Education Fund

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

As the average number of miles driven by Americans heads into its eighth year of decline, a new report from the Ohio PIRG Education Fund finds that the slowdown in driving is likely to continue. Baby boomers are moving out of the phase in their life when they do the most commuting, while driving-averse millennials move into that phase. These demographic changes will likely keep driving down for decades, according to the report, A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future.
 
“The driving boom is over,” said Tabitha Woodruff, advocate for the Ohio PIRG Education Fund. “The constant increases we saw in driving up until 2004 show no sign of returning. As more and more millennials become adults, and their tendency to drive less becomes the norm, the reduction in driving will be even larger.”­


Miles driven per capita peaked in 2004; the total number of miles driven by Americans peaked in 2007. The average American currently drives no more miles than at the end of President Clinton’s first term.
 
The millennial generation is leading the change in transportation trends. Sixteen to 34-year-olds drove a whopping 23 percent fewer miles on average in 2009 than in 200—the greatest decline in driving of any age group. In addition, millennials are more likely to want to live in urban and walkable neighborhoods and are more open to non-driving forms of transportation than the older generation of Americans.
 
“A preference for urban living, combined with the increasing viability of transportation alternatives, has meant that cars are no longer the automatic choice for young people,” said Mia Young, a senior at Oberlin College in Loraine County.
 
The report found that under any reasonable scenario, the number of miles driven annually will be far fewer in the future than if baby boom trends had continued. During the second half of the twentieth century low gas prices, rapid suburbanization and an ever-increasing number of women commuters entering the workforce fueled the driving boom. The factors that defined that period have since taken a back seat. Under some conservative scenarios outlined by the report, driving won’t ever regain its 2007 peak during the range of the study, which extends to 2040.







Yet, official forecasts of future vehicle travel continue to assume steady increases in driving, despite the changing trends seen over the past decade. Those forecasts are used to justify spending vast sums on new and expanded highways, even as repairs to existing roads and bridges remain neglected.
 
“Our transportation leaders need to wake up to the momentous changes that have taken place over the last decade,” said Woodruff. “The infrastructure we build today will mainly be used and paid for by the millennials who are leading the trend away from driving.”


The report examines a number of high-profile official transportation forecasts and finds a consistent pattern of overestimating how much Americans will drive and only partially revising those forecasts when they prove to be incorrect. The government forecasts examined all fall above even the most conservative scenarios forecast in the report and all seem to be based on the assumption that the driving boom’s state of ongoing growth will last forever.­­

The change in driving trends will have huge implications for many aspects of Americans’ travel life:

• Coupled with improvements in fuel efficiency, reduced driving means Americans will use about half as much gasoline and other fuels in 2040 than they use today, making the real value of gas taxes fall as much as 74 percent. Gas taxes provide the chief source of federal transportation funds and a major source for many states.
• Traffic congestion will be less of a problem.
• Toll roads will be less financially viable.
• Many highway expansion projects will start to look like wasteful boondoggles.
• Forms of travel that are expanding in use, like public transit, will be a better investment.



“Given the magnitude of these trends and the implications for the future, we need to press the reset button on our transportation policy,” said Woodruff. “Public officials can’t just stay on the only course they’ve known. They need to learn from current trends to rethink whether it’s worth building all those extra highway miles that were planned based on an obsolete understanding of future driving trends.”

Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.

 

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Animation showing percent of acres burning worldwide. NASA / GSFC / SVS

New NASA Study Solves Climate Mystery, Confirms Methane Spike Tied to Oil and Gas

By Sharon Kelly

Over the past few years, natural gas has become the primary fuel that America uses to generate electricity, displacing the long-time king of fossil fuels, coal. In 2019, more than a third of America's electrical supply will come from natural gas, with coal falling to a second-ranked 28 percent, the Energy Information Administration predicted this month, marking the growing ascendency of gas in the American power market.

Keep reading... Show less
Pexels

Forest Gardening With Space for Wild Elephants

By Michael B. Commons

In my collaboration with Terra Genesis International, I have been given space and support to investigate what we may call "Regenerative Pathways," looking at real life examples of functional farming systems that we can identify as being on the "Regenerative Agriculture Pathway."

While these farms/farming systems might be called "Regenerative Farms," we see regeneration more as a long term process and continuum that we can evaluate through indicators such as soil health, water retention, biodiversity, community health and more.

Keep reading... Show less
Slava Bowman / Unsplash

How Can We Help Put a Human Face on Climate Change?

By John R. Platt

Communicating the truths about climate change isn't always easy. Sometimes the effects of climate change seem to hover in the future, or are occurring most visibly in other parts of the world. Other times they're subtle—at least for now. And of course, there are some people who just don't want to hear anything about it.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Aerial view of Yaguas River and the Cachimbo tributary. Alvaro del Campo, Field Museum

Peru's Newest National Park Safeguards 2 Million Acres of Amazon Rainforest

The Peruvian government announced it will establish a new and enormous national park in the Amazon.

Yaguas National Park, located in the northern region of Loreto, consists of 2,147,166 acres of rainforest, a vast river system and is home to more than 3,000 species of plants, 500 species of birds and 160 species of mammals, including giant otters, woolly monkeys, Amazonian river dolphins and manatees. The park also features 550 fish species—one of the richest fish faunas in the world.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Molteno Dam Reservoir in Cape Town. Wikimedia Commons

Will Cape Town Become the First Major City to Run Out of Water?

Cape Town is on track to become the first major city in the world to run out of water.

The world-renowned tourist destination—and the second-most populous urban area in South Africa after Johannesburg—could approach "Day Zero," when most taps run dry, by April 21, Mayor Patricia de Lille said Tuesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
The mountains of Haiti. PO2 Daniel Barker / DVIDS

Haiti’s Most Popular Ecotourism Destinations

The tropical Caribbean island of Haiti is a paradise with a rich, fascinating history, natural wonders and diverse cultural offerings. It has also been named by some as the next big thing in regional tourism.

But ecotourism in particular could become important for Haiti, with its rich land and sea biodiversity. Globally, the business of ecotourism generates more than $600 billion a year and is connected to hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
iStock

Nearly All Coastal Governors Denounce Plan to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling

Politicians from coastal states around the country continue to call for their states to be exempt from the Trump administration's proposed expansion of offshore drilling following its politically-tinged decision last week to remove Florida from the plan.

The Interior Department said last week that Secretary Ryan Zinke had spoken with seven coastal governors opposed to drilling, including the governors of North and South Carolina, Rhode Island, Delaware and Washington. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's office told press Zinke would consider removing the state from the plan following their call, while California Gov. Jerry Brown's office reports that Zinke promised to travel to the state to further discuss the offshore leases.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Rob Hainer / IStock

In Alabama, a Cleanup Unearths Toxins—and Scandal

By Matt Smith

Lot by lot, backhoes and dump trucks are scraping and hauling away yards on the north side of Birmingham to remove soil laced with heavy metals and other industrial wastes—the legacy of this city's years as a steelmaking power.

Federal prosecutors say that effort also uncovered something else: a scheme to save polluters millions by putting the neighborhood's representative in Montgomery on their payroll.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!