Our office oversees the state’s Highway Cost Allocation Study each biennium and one of the topics discussed, obviously, is the issue of vehicle miles traveled. Nationally VMT is effectively flat, while VMT per capita is down. In Oregon we’ve seen similar, yet more pronounced, trends. One contributor to this decline is the fact that younger individuals are not driving to the same degree as previous generations. In fact they’re not even getting driver’s licenses to the same degree either. There are a number of pet theories out there as to why (cost of driving or insurance, connecting with friends online instead of cruising, etc) but regardless of the exact reason(s), it’s a fact. So it was a surprise this morning to see a new report from City Lab titled It Turns Out That Millennials Do Drive. Well, yes, of course they drive. But I think the thrust of the argument largely misses the mark. The report shows that the share of Millennials that commute to work by car/carpool is largely the same, albeit down somewhat in a few metros. However the real story for the transportation system isn’t necessarily the mode of transportation, but the usage of the system. In particular VMT and VMT per capita. For a rough cut, I am using the National Household Travel Survey data. As shown below, the trends are clear. The percentages listed are the changes from 1995 to 2009. Even if the share of folks driving to work is largely the same — it is, if you look at the Census and ACS data — the amount of driving is way down, which is the real story here. It has big implications for things like the gas tax, which is not raising the amount of revenue needed to keep up with infrastructure replacement/repair costs.
Posted by: Josh Lehner | December 8, 2014