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Is the driving boom over?

Younger drivers are driving less.
Younger drivers are driving less.

WASHINGTON – A study by U.S. Pirg, the non-profit federation of state groups, finds total miles driven by Americans peaked in 2007 and will decline as baby boomers retire and millennials — age 16 to 34 — drive less.

The average number of miles driven is expected to be down for the eighth consecutive year, the report said.

“The driving boom is over,” said U.S. Pirg Education Fund senior analyst Phineas Baxandall, who co-wrote the report. “The constant increases we saw in driving up until 2005 show no sign of returning. As more and more millennials become adults, and their tendency to drive less becomes the norm, the reduction in driving will be even larger.”

The report found millennials drove 23 percent fewer miles on average in 2009 than in 2001 and are far more likely to prefer walkable urban neighborhoods and public transportation than their parents and grandparents.

The study, which looks out as far as 2040, said the generational shift will make it hard to justify massive spending on new and improved roads and infrastructure as spending on public transportation falls.

“America’s transportation leaders need to wake up to the momentous changes that have taken place over the last decade,” Baxandall said in a release. “The infrastructure we build today will mainly be used and paid for by the millennials who are leading the trend away from driving.”

The report projects by 2040, U.S. motorists will use about half the gasoline and other motor fuels they use today — lowering motor fuel taxes as much as 74 percent — traffic congestion will ease, toll roads will be less financially viable and public transit will become a better investment.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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