Worcester Millennials First Generation To Drive Less Than Their Parents
Friday, September 06, 2013
Millennials are driving less than previous generations, recent research says, leading the tide of a sharp decline in driving nationwide. According to the Frontier Group, an environmental think tank, between 2001 and 2009 the average annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by 16-to 34-year-olds decreased 23 percent; while the annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by the general population decreased only 6 percent.
To see more about how millennials have changed their transportation habits, see the slides, below.
“I personally don't drive much, probably because I don't own a car, and am not thinking of owning one until I am out of college in a job with steady income,” said Lyor Dotan, 23, a student at Clark University. “Cars are an expense and a responsibility, and for those of us who live on campus it's not necessarily a priority.”
For commuters though, vehicles are less of an expense and more of a necessity.
“My peers and I drive a lot,” said Michelle Johnstone, 21, a student at Worcester State University.“I am a commuter and live about a 25-minute drive from campus, so I have to drive there daily. My friends and I also have to drive to work 5-6 days a week, and when we are free we have to drive to see each other. In a normal week, I am driving at least 8-10 hours.”
Commuters and Colleges: Alternatives To Cars
The number of commuters at local universities varies considerably between colleges. At Clark University 71 percent of students live on campus, and at Worcester Polytechnic Institute 99 percent of first year students live on campus, though that number drops to 46 percent for the remaining years. At Assumption College 89 percent of students live on campus, while at Worcester State University the number is only 31 percent.
Young people are increasingly replacing private vehicles with bicycles, public transportation, and other alternatives, studies show. According to the National Association for Realtors, young people are more likely than their older peers to prefer living in areas characterized by nearby shopping, restaurants, schools, and public transportation.
Stephen O’Neil, Administrator at the Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) agreed; “We notice when the economy doesn’t seem to be doing as well and as gas prices approach $3.50, $4 dollars, we see an uptick in ridership. People who maybe were on the fence decide to leave the vehicle at home and take public transportation instead.”
In addition to this predictable uptick, O’Neil also notices higher numbers of riders during the academic year as students return to Worcester’s many colleges.
“The younger generation is very adept at using technology to their advantages,” O’Neil said, stressing another key factor in increased ridership among young people.
O’Neil cited the increasing use of the WRTA’s website and QR codes, which can connect users to bus schedules, trip planners, and real time arrivals. He attributes this increased use to younger riders, and anticipates further increases as the tools become more comprehensive and efficient.
More than Cost and Convenience
Cost and convenience are not the only factors in millennials seeking alternate modes of transportation. People born in the 1980s and 1990s have proven themselves much more environmentally conscious than many of their parents. According to the Frontier Group, from 2001 to 2009, 16-to-34-years-olds who lived in households with annual incomes of more than $70,000 increased their use of public transit by 100 percent, biking by 122 percent, and walking by 37 percent. Purchases of electric cars have also been on the rise, though mostly among older populations.
“The real point is that electric vehicles essentially provide one more option for transportation that is relatively clean and carbon free,” said Chris Noonan, Senior Program Advisor at the Institute for Energy and Sustainability. The Institute played a key role in installing electric car charging stations at both Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Clark University.
Noonan admits though, that the uptick in electric car use has been limited. “Mostly professors and mid-stage career professionals in the job market for maybe 10 plus years,” he said, “and really that comes down to the price tag. They retail in the high 30s to mid 40s, and that’s been a giant barrier for a wide section of middle class America that doesn’t want to make that kind of commitment for an electric vehicle.”
Several agencies have remarked the steep decline in the number of people getting behind the wheel, and are reaching out to millennials in hopes of increasing driver education and safety.
“Across the country, and at AAA, we do see millennials waiting longer to get their licenses and fewer kids enrolling in driver education,” said Maguire. “I think an investment in driver education is extremely important considering that driving is the most dangerous activity we do every day.”
In addition to forgoing driver education, waiting longer to get a license comes with the side effect of less supervision for young drivers.
“One of the reasons why we license young drivers at 16 and a half is so that they can have parental supervision for several years before they go off to college or out into the working world,” she said.
It is often parents who monitor young people’s adherence to curfews, cell phone bans, and with whom they are driving their cars. Waiting longer to get a license removes those important safeguards. To address this trend AAA has implemented several programs targeted specifically at pre-permit drivers and teenagers, including its INsider and Dare to Prepare programs.
- Grace Ross: How to Rebuild Public Transportation in Massachusetts
- Grace Ross: How to Solve Worcester’s Public Transportation Problems
- How Earn-a-Bike Solves Transportation Troubles in Worcester
- Murray: Mass. Underfunding Transportation Needs by $1 Billion Annually
- MA Group Says Governor’s Transportation Plan “Too Taxing”
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