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Blaming Millennials for Decaying Road Infrastructure

If you thought inflation and fuel efficiency, along with politicians unwillingness to raise gas taxes were the main causes of America's decaying road and bridges, S&P adds another contributing factor—millennial transportation preferences.
October 22, 2015, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Vladimir Mucibabic

Millennials are not directly responsible for that pothole you may have just driven through - but their "driving and vehicle purchasing habits—or lack thereof—greatly contribute to the decreased collection of the federal gas tax," writes Kathleen Burke for MarketWatch. And the Highway Trust Fund, where those gas taxes are deposited, is what funds much of the road repair on the interstate highway system.

The millennial blame can be found in S&P's Oct. 19 economic research report, "Millennials Are Creating Unsafe Conditions On U.S. Roads--But Not In The Way You Might Think (pdf)," written by Beth Ann Bovino and Geoffrey E Buswick,

Burke analyzes rates of licenses issued, VMT, public transit usage, and millennial preference for green cars. She omits biking and carshare though—both greatly associated with millennial travel preferences.

But it's not just preferences that are responsible for millennials not propping-up the Highway Trust Fund as other generations have done, observes the Financial Times on the new report.

A major one is the economy: Wages among younger workers have been depressed, while unemployment and underemployment remain high. On top of that, the generation which was born from 1982-2000, also tends to start families later in life, perhaps halting moves into the suburbs where driving is more common.

S&P's report contradicts, to some extent, Yonah Freemark's post that we can't expect millennials to save us from our auto-dependent ways. We may still be a nation of drivers, regardless of millennial travel preferences, but their transportation biases are impacting our ability to pay for road upkeep.

Hat tip to Jennifer Scholtes, transportation reporter for POLITICO Pro.

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Published on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 in Marketwatch
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