Cars, long a status symbol for American youth, are increasingly being passed-over by millennials the New York Times reports. According to a study released Tuesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the driving boom of the past sx decades is over. Even though the U.S. population increases every year, 2013 marked the eighth year of declining driving. In aggregate, America’s vehicle owners are driving fewer miles than they used to. As federal data shows, total vehicle mileage driven in the U.S. is essentially back where it was in 2005. And many millennials aren’t even picking up the habit.
What’s behind the dramatic, continued decrease? Two answers: the high cost of owning a vehicle and the increasing ease of public transport.
One of the more obvious reasons is the price associated with owning and driving a car. Even if the car is a birthday president from their folks, millennials are finding the cost of gas, parking and car insurance to be prohibitive – especially when they’re using a big chunk of cash flow to pay down student loans.
Meanwhile, public transport is also an appealing option, especially in city settings, where college educated 25 to 34-year-olds are increasingly flocking.
For nights out, those who have a car may opt to use subways instead of jockeying for parking and worrying about designated drivers. During the day, car owners often chose to leave their vehicles behind and leave the grid-lock navigation of their daily commute to a bus driver. In recent years, a host of businesses have also sprung up to offer what might be dubbed mobility solutions to young people – Zipcar, Nextbus, Uber. Meanwhile, bike sharing systems like Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare and New York’s soon-to-open Citi Bikes, are proliferating. And light rail systems have sprung up or expanded in Houston, Charlotte, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Denver.
Of course, automobiles will be the dominant mode of transport in the U.S. for decades to come. But in an increasing number of places, and for an increasing number of people, cars are only one of many options.