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The shift away from driving continues

A new study by consumer group U.S. PIRG Education Fund found less driving and fewer car commuters in the country's largest urban areas. It also found use of public transit and biking is up in most cities.

“There is a shift away from driving,” says Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, in a press release. “Instead of expanding new highways, our government leaders should focus on investing in public transit and biking for the future.”

Some of the study's findings, according to the press release, include:

  • The proportion of workers commuting either in a vehicle alone or in a car pool “declined in 99 out of 100 of America's most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and the 2007-2011 period averaged in U.S. Census data.”
  • The average number of miles driven per resident fell from 2006 to 2011 in almost three-quarters of America's largest urbanized areas for which good data is available.
  • From 2006 to 2011, the percentage of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas and the percentage of households with two or more cars decreased in 86 out of the 100.

A previous study, covered in the Deseret News, showed that millennials are using cars less. Amber Gibson, a 22-year-old model and recent valedictorian of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, is a good example of her generation's attitude toward automobiles.

“I see no reason to get a car in the foreseeable future,” she says. “I never actually wanted a car. It has never been a goal for me. I never asked my parents for a car. I didn't want to save up to buy a car.”

An article by Ashley Halsey III in the Washington Post summarizes the transportation context of the decline in driving: “As teleworking from home increases, baby boomers enter retirement, car ownership and the percentage of people with driver's licenses drop and the cost of gasoline remains high, Americans are driving 7.5 percent fewer miles per year than they did in 2004.”

The declines in driving do not appear to be hard-wired to economic problems, however, the study found: “Variations in the economy do not appear to be responsible for variations in the trends in driving among urbanized areas. In fact, the economies of urbanized areas with large declines in driving have been less affected by the recession, according to unemployment and poverty indicators.”


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