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Your Take: Are You Driving Less?

We’ve tossed around the idea of selling your ride and living carless [3], and many people are finding more efficient ways to get around, but it’s still hard to believe we’re seeing an end of an era.

Driving just isn’t cool anymore.

According to a new report from the John A. Volpe Transportation Systems Center [4], people are driving less and less in America. This is a trend I’ve picked up recently as I’ve been traveling more. I live in a pretty car-reliant town, so I feel like I have an inflated sense of the ubiquity of cars. They’re everywhere. Everyone at my office drives to work; It’s just the easiest way to get around. But in my recent travels to bigger, more densely-populated urban centers, I’ve noticed many people utilizing a variety of efficient transportation options to get around.

It always seemed odd to me to not have a car, just for various tasks that wouldn’t work on foot/bike, but the more I got around and chatted with people, the more I noticed that some major metropolitan areas are making great strides improving and streamlining their cities to accommodate various forms of transportation. Mass transit in general is just more of an option in bigger cities. I live in south Florida, and we’re no where near that. At all. So I guess I’ve been rather ignorant to all the progress.

But it’s also a generational thing. The study notes that many of the people driving less are young males. Not only that, but the number of people under 30 with driver’s licenses is dropping off dramatically.

(Volpe, 2013)

I’ve seen this firsthand with my little brother and his generation: there’s just no rush to go out and get a license. Driving’s just not a priority to them, for whatever reason. When I was that age (ugh, I’m turning into that guy), I couldn’t wait to get my license, be on my own, go where I wanted without having to bother my mom to drop me off somewhere, then pick me up (usually at her discretion). I remember the joy of just being eligible to take the driving class, and get my permit, then waiting a year to take my driving test. It was thrilling. It was a great sense of freedom and responsibility at 15, so it’s kinda strange to me how that excitement has dissipated. Maybe it’s a mixture of things.

Maybe less families can afford the added insurance of a teenage driver, or heck, maybe they just can’t afford the added gas expense or extra wear and tear on their primary vehicle. Teens today can pretty much forget getting their own car. According to Truecar, the average transaction price on a new vehicle last year topped 30 grand, which is insane to me.

Another interesting point brought up in the study is that vehicle miles travelled (VMT) has historically been tied to GDP growth, but even as we recover from our recession, mileage numbers keep on dropping. So it appears as if this is a permanent trend away from cars, and driving.

(Volpe, 2013)

Although it may seem like I’m all pro-car/driving, I actually think this is a good trend. Cars are terrible assets, horribly inefficient machines, and are extremely expensive to maintain. As much as I do enjoy cruising around in my ride, I look forward to reserving my car for casual, recreational spins, instead of putting all these miles on her (FYI: I bought a new car last year and have already racked up almost twenty thousand miles). Less driving and fewer cars is good for the environment, good for our wallets, and good for us (this is a generalization but I’ve noticed the people who drive less and bike/walk more tend to be more fit, physically and financially).

So how about you? Are you driving less? Could you (or would you) live without a car?

I think it might be a fun challenge to try. Hmmm.

Let us know 🙂