Study finds millennials' shift away from driving is 'more than temporary'

A group of local cyclists ride their bicycles through Towson.

The nation's largest generation — the so-called "millennials," born between 1983 and 2000 — have shown less dependence on driving to get around in recent years and aren't likely to change their ways, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Maryland PIRG Foundation and the Frontier Group.

Young people are pushing down the driving mileage per capita in the country for the first time in decades, and are more likely to live in urban centers and to bike or walk to work, the study found. They are getting driving licenses less frequently, are using public transit more and are delaying forming families — all things that, along with a weak economy in recent years, have pushed them away from relying on vehicles.


The benefits of the shift vary, from less congestion to less pollution, and transportation policymakers in Maryland and across the country should be taking note, the study's authors found.

"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 Frontier Group and one of the report's authors, in a statement. "Unfortunately, many of our nation's transportation policies work to ensure just the opposite result."


Federal data on transportation behavior in the United States has shown that between 2001 and 2009, vehicle trips per capita by those aged 16 to 34 declined 15 percent, the study found. During the same period, per capita trips by transit among the same age group increased 4 percent; walking trips increased 16 percent; and biking trips increased 27 percent.

The report found millennials are not likely to change their attitudes toward transportation as the economy continues to improve, and that their shift away from driving is "more than temporary," Maryland PIRG said.

"Millennials are different from their parents, and those differences aren't going away," Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr said in a statement. "After five years of economic growth with stagnant driving, it's time for federal and Maryland government 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."

The report calls for greater investment in public transit and biking infrastructure, and for highway funding to be used to repair existing roads rather than build new ones.

It follows a U.S. PIRG Education Fund study released last year that found young professionals and others across the country were driving less.