Is Generation Y Weaning Off the Automobile?

Angie Schmitt discusses new research from U.S. PIRG indicating youngsters are relying on their cars less than the generation before them, motivated by more than just thinning pocketbooks.

1 minute read

April 8, 2012, 7:00 AM PDT

By Ryan Lue


A study released Thursday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group shows young people (defined here as 16- to 34-years-old) are getting comfortable finding new ways to get around.

While they're driving less (vehicle miles traveled fell by almost a quarter over the first decade of the millennium for the cohort), they're getting out on two wheels more (bicycle trips increased by roughly the same percentage).

For youngsters in families with high income – that's $70,000 or more – the trend is even stronger, riding bikes and buses twice as often in 2009 as they did in 2001.

Many are making the shift for environmental reasons, a concern less prevalent among respondents over 34. In addition, Schmitt offers the following explanation: "Higher gas prices, obviously, help put owning a car out of reach for many younger Americans, especially as the age group struggles in a less-favorable job market. [Also], technology, specifically smartphones, and their incompatibility with (safe) driving, help make alternatives that much more inviting."

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