Friday, April 6, 2012

US PIRG Report Highlights Demographic and Cultural Changes Behind Drop in VMT

US PIRG has issued a new report summarizing recent data which suggests that the recent flattening of growth in vehicle miles traveled may be a long-term trend.   The implication of the data is that social, cultural, and technological changes – and not just the economic slump – have led to less driving, especially among the Millennial generation.  The 18 – 34s not only drive less, they use transit more, walk and bike more, rely on social media more, and are drawn to urban centers, where alternatives to driving are more plentiful. 
You have probably seen some of this data reported elsewhere, but US PIRG has pulled it together in a clear, well-documented, and persuasive narrative.  (As the report notes, you can also see this change on the ground by visiting places like the Orange Line neighborhoods of Arlington, VA.)
A critical question is the extent to which VMT will rebound when the economy rebounds.  The authors of this report suggest there is good reason to believe that attitudinal and behavioral changes observed in the Millennials will persist, causing long-term changes in the demand for transportation services.
Transportation policy folks need to carefully read the final section of the report – “Implications for Transportation Policy” – which asks us to think about whether we are planning, designing, and building transportation infrastructure to meet the needs of an era which is already passing.  What might we need to do more of?  More (and better!) transit, better land use planning, and a transportation revenue system reflecting a new reality.
Well done to the US PIRG and Frontier Group team!

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