YAYA Wire
Is the YAYA Generation Choosing Information Highway over Open Highway?
18th Apr 2012 Posted in: YAYA Wire 1

Two new studies show that young people are driving less for a multitude of reasons: a weak economy, increasing gas prices, changes in behavior, increasing use of technology, better public transportation, bikes, and walking, among other reasons.

Research from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) shows a major drop in licensed drivers under the age of 30 in the United States.

Key facts from the study include:

  • In 1983, out of all the drivers in America, about a third were under age 30. Today, only 22 percent are under age 30. This would seem to tell us that the driving population is primarily older generations.
  • Also in 1983, 94 percent of Americans in their 20s had a driver’s license. In 2008, that number had decreased to 84 percent.
  • Where 69 percent of 17-year-olds were licensed in 1983, 50 percent were licensed in 2008.

Research professor Michael Sivak attributes much of this drop to emerging electronic technology and the Internet. “It is possible that the availability of virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people,” said Sivak, in an interview with MSNBC.com. “Furthermore, some young people feel that driving interferes with texting and other electronic communication.”

But there are other factors as well. The UMTRI study also attributes the change to a weak economy, high costs associated with owning a car, high unemployment among young people, and an increase in young people living in urban cities where cars are less necessary.

A similar study by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group found similar data and reasoning. According to federal data (that was also cited in UMTRI’s study), those between 16 and 34 years of age clocked an average of 10,300 miles annually as recently as 2001. By 2009, that had dipped to just 7,900 miles a year a 23 percent drop.

The study linked the change to a multitude of reasons: higher gas prices, changes in values and preferences, new licensing laws, and improvements in technology that support alternative transportation.

Some focal findings of the study found:

  • In 2009, 16- to 34-year-olds took 24 percent more bike trips than they did in 2001, despite the age group shrinking in size by 2 percent.
  • In 2009, 16- to 34-year-olds walked to destinations 16 percent more frequently than did 16- to 34-year-olds living in 2001.
  • From 2001 to 2009, the number of passenger miles traveled by 16- to-34-year-olds on public transit increased by 40 percent.
  • According to the Federal Highway Administration, from 2000 to 2010, the share of 14- to 34-year-olds without a driver’s license increased from 21 percent to 26 percent.

Showing some similarities to the UMTRI study, The U.S. PIRG study also attributed the changes in the way we interact with each other to the Internet using social media.

The report found that young employed people who are doing well financially also were driving less. The report’s authors said young people are “anxious to avoid long commutes, be close to friends and activities, and lessen their environmental impact.”

What does this all mean for businesses? It throws a bit of a ratchet in the idea that Americans will always be addicted to their cars. Businesses (and government) may want to invest in public transportation, creation of bike lanes, sidewalks, and other transportation alternatives.

Businesses should also think about this report when deciding where to locate their stores, headquarters, restaurants, etc. While previously having a business 20 minutes outside of “downtown” might have been fine, now it may be more crucial to place your business in a location that is easily accessibly by public transportation and bikes and within walking distance of residential areas.

 

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