The Decline of Driving for Young Americans

Olivia Clifford  |

With the unsteady economic climate and the steady increase in gas prices, more young Americans have taken to public transportation then ever before. The shift in young Americans ditching their cars and taking to the streets comes from the multivariable pressures they are now facing with the unemployment rates being as high as they currently are. A Spring 2013 report by U.S. Prig, a non-profit advocacy organization called A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future concluded that the downshift was due to a combination of the financial burden involved with diving and owning a car as well as the impact of the internet and the instant connections it provides its users. 

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As youth unemployment and underemployment continues to be a problem within the United States, there are less people working and therefore less people commuting. Young Americans are beginning to drive less in an effort to pinch pennies and save on gas. There has been a steady rise in gas prices over the last 11 years. U.S. Prig’s report demonstrated that between 2002 and 2011, the average inflation-adjusted price of a gallon of gasoline has doubled with no sign of it decreasing anytime soon. But with increased prices comes the increased eagerness to find alternative forms of transportation. As Generation Y Americans move farther away from cars, their choices in hosing preferences have changed as well. As opposed to the generations before them, the housing preferences of young Americans are increasingly based on a neighborhood’s walkability. Young Americans are seeking to live in  areas where they can access what they need in a more efficient manner than ever before. 

The use of the Internet and the thrill of instantaneous connection between American youths and their peers make navigation, transportation, and socializing more accessible then ever before. As of 2013, 95 percent of Generation Y Americans were using the Internet in comparison to 52 percent of 65 and older Americans. With new navigation services such as Google Maps or transportation services such as Lyfe and Uber, the ability to find and travel publically or through ride-share is getting easier and easier. With the touch of a button, one's cell phone can orient to where one is and give multiple options as to how to get to where one needs to go. With this form of instant and easy access, driving cars becomes more of a costly hassle than it is worth. The report also stated that more Americans are online shopping than ever and would prefer to interact with their peers via the Internet, than have to get into their car and drive to meet them face-to-face. It's becoming more efficient for Americans to have their needs delivered to their houses for them and to communicate faster through the internet, effectively cutting out all the time that is lost during the transportation and commuting process.

 Overall, the trend is demonstrating that driving and owning cars is not as essential or coveted for younger Americans. They are seeking out alternative methods, in an attempt to maximize their efficiency and save their money. 

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