Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Driving and the Generation Gap

It is no secret that there is a a decline in driving in America.  From December 2011:

Americans have been driving fewer miles every month since March, a decline fueled by factors ranging from the weak economy to high gas prices to aging boomers and teens driving less.

Is this decline a long term trend or a short term aberration?  While some pundits make the case that this is a short term squeeze, two crucial pieces of data make a sufficient case that this is a long term trend.  First is the increase in urbanization in America.

Second is the structural decline of teenage drivers:

More than 30% of American 19-year-olds in 2010 (30.5% to be precise) did not have a driver's license, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
That's the highest percentage ever, and a sharp increase from the 24.5% in 2008 and only 12.7% in 1983, based on data from the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau. The unlicensed population is almost certainly larger today.

This goes further than reduced licensing, but also reduced car consumption in general:

From 2001-09, the average annual number of vehicle miles traveled by people ages 16-34 decreased from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita -- a drop of 23%, according to a study by Frontier Group released in April.

We can also challenge the idea that aging boomers is a part of the decline in driving:

Meanwhile, the percentage of people with a driver's license who are 70 or older has increased from about 55% in 1983 to 80% in 2010, according to UMTRI.

Hopefully this helps put some context on the decline of collar county suburban growth.

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