America’s love affair with the automobile may have finally hit a dead end, according to a recent article in The New York Times. It’s a bold claim, but the data back it up.
The number of miles driven in the United States peaked in 2005 and has been steadily declining since.
In particular, younger people have turned their backs on the car. They are much less likely to get a driver’s license than previous generations, and they don’t romanticize automobiles in the way that their parents did. Their love affair is with smart phones, not cars.
Is there evidence of this trend at the local level?
Data firm Scarborough Research surveys thousands of people in the Seattle metropolitan area on the ways they get around. The data indicate that among younger people there has indeed been a shift away from driving — and it’s happening at a fast pace.
Today, 80 percent of adults under 35 in the Seattle metro say that driving is a primary mode of transportation for them. In 2008 — just five years ago — that number was at 90 percent.
In the same period of time, there have been significant increases in the percentage of young people here who walk in town at least one mile per week, and who regularly ride the bus.
By comparison, among those 35 and older in the Seattle area, the amount of driving, walking, and bus riding has remained static between 2008 and 2013.
It may sound premature to declare the end of the automobile to anyone who has to suffer though Seattle rush-hour traffic. But the data suggest that a fundamental shift is under way in the attitude towards personal mobility among younger people — in Seattle and around the nation.