New Report Shows Mounting Evidence of Millennials’ Shift Away from Driving

Congestion forecasts and government ignore census data, demographics and surveys that suggest lasting change

Press Release from U.S. PIRG

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) Education Fund and the Frontier Group shows mounting evidence that the Millennial generation’s dramatic shift away from driving is more than temporary. While the 2000s saw a marked decrease in the average number of miles traveled by young Americans, the study explains that those trends appear likely to continue even as the economy improves – in light of the consistency of Millennials’ surveyed preferences, a continued reduction of Millennials driving to work, and the continued decreases in per-capita driving among all Americans.

“Millennials are different from their parents, and those differences aren’t going away,” said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Analyst at U.S. PIRG and co-author of the report. “After five years of economic growth with stagnant driving, it’s time for federal and state governments to wake up to growing evidence that Millennials don’t want to drive as much as their parents did. This change has big implications and policy makers shouldn’t be asleep at the wheel.”

“Millennials are trying to send a message to policy-makers: We want convenient, walkable neighborhoods with many options for how to get around,” said Tony Dutzik, Senior Analyst at the Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “Unfortunately, many of our nation’s transportation policies work to ensure just the opposite result.”

The report includes many findings that suggest that Millennials’ shift away from driving last decade is continuing:

  • Census data shows that the share of 16 to 24 year-olds traveling to work by car declined by 1.5 percentage points between 2006 and 2013, while the share of young people getting to work by public transportation, on foot or by bicycle, or else working from home, had increased.
  • Young people aged 20 to 30 are less likely to move from central cities to suburbs than at any time since at least the late 1990s.
  • Millennials consistently report greater attraction to less driving-intensive lifestyles — urban living, residence in “walkable” communities, and openness to the use of non-driving modes of transport — than older generations.
  • Fewer young people are getting their driver’s licenses than even a few years ago. The percentage of high school seniors with driver’s licenses declined from 85 percent to 73 percent between 1996 and 2010, according to the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety, with federal data suggesting that the decline has continued since then.

Millennials are the largest generation in number and they will be the chief users of the transportation investments that get made over the coming decade. Millennials are expected to drive more as they reach the peak-driving years of middle age, but if they drive less (or even no more) than their parents did in middle age, it will be a monumental shift in travel trends since the 1950s and the assumptions underpinning current transportation policy.

“The report confirms that attracting and keeping young residents and talented workers requires investment in a comprehensive transportation system that offers a wide range of options for walking, biking, transit and getting around by vehicle,” said James Corless, Executive Director of Transportation for America. “We urge Congress to update our national transportation program to reflect changing needs in our economy and in local communities.”

In reviewing a wide range of data from the last few years, the report finds that many of the reasons why Millennials are driving less are long-term trends that are likely to last.

  • While young adults “living on their parents’ sofa” increased during the recession, the share living in their parents’ homes had also been increasing even prior to the recession.
  • The recession may have caused some Millennials to delay forming separate families that would likely drive more, but Americans have been getting married and having children at a later age nearly continuously since the 1960s. These trends have continued during the recovery.
  • Graduated driver licensing requirements adopted in recent years by state governments have likely played a small but important role in causing young people to delay or forgo getting a driver’s license, potentially encouraging Millennials to develop less car-dependent transportation habits that they may carry with them as they age.

Americans drive fewer total miles than we did in 2005, and fewer miles per capita than we did in the mid-1990s. People are riding public transportation more than at any time since the mid-1950s, the number of people working at home continues to surge, and bicycling has become the fastest-growing mode of commuting. Demand for housing and office space in walkable neighborhoods of many cities is outpacing the supply of new construction.

“With Millennials driving less, and showing signs they might continue to do so, it’s no longer true that the amount of driving and traffic can go in only one direction,” said Baxandall. “If Millennials are able to continue driving less than did previous generations at the same age, then America will have an opportunity for reduced traffic congestion, fewer deaths and injuries on the roads, lower expenditures for highway construction and less pollution of our air and climate.”

The report calls on public leaders to rethink their transportation investments to accommodate and encourage the Millennial generation in its desire for less car-intensive lifestyles. This includes greater investment in public transit and biking infrastructure, and using highway funds to repair of existing roads rather than building new are wider highways. State and federal governments should also assist efforts currently being led by cities to encourage walkable communities and innovative uses of technology that connect travelers to more travel options and shared vehicles.

The new report can be found here.

U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group have been leaders in following and explaining the ongoing shift away from driving through a series of other reports on the trend, including a study last month of major highway expansion plans that do not make sense in light of these ongoing travel trends


Phineas Baxandall

(617) 747-4351




NH Department of Transportation Creates Transit Map

The Bureau of Rail and Transit recently posted this great transit map, with clickable links to local and regional transit providers, including intercity bus service and passenger rail stations. With this map, transit users can quickly determine which services are available at their origin and destination.

Consider posting this on your own website!


Safer Streets for Everyone

diabetes chartOur doctors and public health officials are telling us to walk more to reduce the incidence of chronic disease, including diabetes. A report by the Centers for Disease Control estimates that the number of Americans with diabetes will range from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 by 2050.



dangerousBut in many places, it’s just not safe to walk.  As more people take to their feet, we’ve seen an increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities.  More than 47,000 pedestrians were killed in the decade from 2003 through 2012, which is 16 times the number who died in natural disasters.  Smart Growth America highlights the growing trend in their report, Dangerous by Design.

What can be done about it?  We can design our streets with the safety of all users in mind, for a start.

At the local level, many communities are building more sidewalks and crosswalks.  Better still, some are adopting a policy of keeping all users in mind when designing or rebuilding their streets.

Examples can be found in Concord, Keene, Dover and especially Portsmouth. Check out Portsmouth’s Walk Friendly Community Policy.

There are plenty of resources available to help your community get started. healnh

HEAL New Hampshire has a comprehensive guide.


 You can also get support from Bike Walk Alliance of NHScreen Shot 2014-06-17 at 11.08.37 AM

and the NH Department of Transportation Bicycle and Pedestrian Program.Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 11.12.46 AM


Another great resource is Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission’s
Livable Walkable Communities Toolkit. Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 11.14.48 AM




In Congress, a bipartisan group of representatives introduced the Safe Streets Act, H.R.2468, requiring all federally-funded transportation projects, with certain exceptions, to accommodate the safety and convenience of all users. Representatives Kuster and Shea-Porter are co-sponsors. A similar Senate bill, S.2004 was introduced in February. Neither of our senators are listed as co-sponsors—yet!

What can you do, as an individual?

  1. Get informed. Follow the links above and learn more about the issue.
  2. Talk to your local officials about pedestrian—and bicycle—safety in your town.
  3. Talk to others who have made progress and ask them to show you how they did it.
  4. Talk to your regional planning commission (RPC). Many of them are working on this issue already, and would love to hear from you.   Check here to find your RPC and learn how to contact them.
  5. Ask Senators Ayotte and Shaheen to co-sponsor S.2004, the Safe Streets Act of 2014. 500px-Laptop_icon.svgHere’s a template you can use. Prefer telephoning? There’s a script available here.

Let your representatives know that you are concerned about the rising number of pedestrians and bicyclists being killed on our streets. Tell them that you want everyone who uses our streets to travel safely.


Bike-friendly cities are also tech business-friendly cities

A recent article in the Houston Business Journal, Sprawling Houston sees increase in commuter cyclists, discussed the 7.1 percent increase in bicycle commuting in Houston from 1990 to 2012, and the city’s $100 million investment in bicycle infrastructure.  Brian Stallings of Bike Texas theorized about the motivation for this investment:

“Companies like Samsung and Google are looking at the bicycle facility infrastructure before they decide what city they’re going to locate in,” Stallings told NPR. “So this is really being driven by economics in Texas. It’s not all about people seeing themselves on a bicycle, but seeing what it does for the quality of life in a city.”

Bike Houston and Mayor Annise Parker recently announced the  Zero Fatalities Bike Safety Campaign, including $50,000 for a bicycle master plan to guide bicycle-related investment decisions in Houston.

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TransportationCamp New England 2014

Open spots are still available for the 1st Annual TransportationCamp New England to be held on Saturday, April 5, 2014.

Following on the success of previous Transportation Camps, TransportationCamp New England ’14 will continue to examine ways to build connections between disparate innovators in public administration, transportation planning, transportation operations, information design, and software engineering.

You can register here. Share your session ideas on the collaborative ideas site. Follow on Twitter for the latest updates, @TranspoCampNE.

Hosted by MIT and the MIT Transportation Club at the Stata Center, Main Floor, 32 Vassar St, Cambridge, MA 02139.

More information at Transportation Camp New England 2014.

Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design funding opportunity

The CIRD program offers rural communities the following:CIRD RFP

  • An annual competitive opportunity to host an intensive, two-and-a-half day community workshop, supported through a $7,000 cash award and in-kind technical assistance and design expertise valued at $35,000;
  • Informational conference calls and webinars on key design and planning topics for rural communities that are open and freely available to communities nationwide; and
  • Web-based access to a wide range of rural design resources.

CIRD will select as many as four communities to host CIRD workshops in the fall of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015.

Application Timeline: 

RFP Issued March 11, 2014
Application Assistance:

  • Application Preparation Webinar
  • Q&A Call with CIRD Staff
April 2, 2014 3PM EDT
April 24, 2014 3PM EDT
Applications Due May 6, 2014 9PM EDT
Finalists Notified Early June 2014
Phone Interview with Finalists Early June 2014
Host Communities Notified Mid June 2014
Public Announcement Late June 2014

Request for proposals can be found here.