The driving boom is over. That’s the conclusion of a study from an independent research and education group in Arizona.
The Arizona PIRG Fund, formerly known as the Public Interest Research Group, did the study, “A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and Implications for America’s Future”).
It found that Americans drove no more in 2012 than they did in 2004. Researchers made these conclusions based on results from travel surveys and U.S. Census data.
As baby boomers retire, they are skipping the morning commute. Millennials, those born between 1983 and 2000, are more attracted to urban, walkable areas, the study shows.
“We think this is a trend likely to last for some time, especially as the millennial generation moves into the commuting phase of their life because millennials in particular are driving less,” said Serena Unrein, a PIRG spokeswoman.
Between 2005 and 2011, 20 percent more people walked to work, and 39 percent more commuted by bicycle. Overall, Americans used public transportation 10 percent more often. Rising gasoline prices, declining labor force participation and an increased interest in alternate transportation also led to fewer drivers on the road.
PIRG’s findings predict less driving than federal government forecasts.
“We’re simply not going to be seeing the kind of driving increases we’ve seen in the past,” Unrein said. “We really need for our policy makers to be looking at new driving trends and basing their transportation investments on how people are really getting around.”
The Living Streets Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes expanded transportation choices in Tucson, supports the study’s findings.
“We are always talking about the benefits of a more bikable, walkable community; it’s good for your health and so on and so forth,” said Emily Yetman, executive director of the alliance.
She said the organization’s regional bicyclist and pedestrian count has shown increases in the last few years.
“The more people that are out biking and walking, the safer it becomes for everyone,” Yetman said. “You have drivers being more aware and conscious of other modes of transportation.”
Mariana Dale is a University of Arizona intern at Arizona Public Media