Have Internet, Will Travel—Just Not By Car

A new report from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund looks at how innovations in technology and social networking are changing the country's transportation landscape, and contributing to the decline in driving.
October 2, 2013, 6am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Teleconferencing, e-commerce, transit apps, social media, and smartphones are among the emerging technologies having a profound impact on how, and how often, Americans travel (especially young ones). That's the conclusion of a new report out this week from Phineas Baxandall and his colleagues at the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

But just how much of the an impact has technology had on the decline in vehicle travel? "It's virtually impossible to quantify the cumulative impact of all this technological change on the decline in driver's licenses or car registrations or miles traveled (is 'new technology' responsible for 15 percent of the drop? 30 percent?)," says Emily Badger. "Baxandall reasons, though, that 'it’s definitely a significant piece of what’s behind the driving trends. But if you look to the future, it seems even more significant. All of these things are really just in their infancy.'"

But on the related question of how lasting the accompanying urban revival will be, the report includes some interesting findings. "Notably, only 27 percent of child-less Millennials said they picture themselves residing long-term in an urban setting, a decision that dictates many of the transportation modes available to them (there's no point in using a transit app if you live nowhere near transit)," notes Badger. "And so this is reason for caution in tracing these trends out into the future."

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Published on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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