A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Old in Oldsmobile

Via AdAge, new demographic data confirms that spending two hours every day stuck behind a steering wheel is not what the kids these days are into:

"In 1978, nearly half of 16-year-olds and three-quarters of 17-year-olds in the U.S. had their driver's licenses, according to Department of Transportation data. By 2008, the most recent year data was available, only 31% of 16-year-olds and 49% of 17-year-olds had licenses, with the decline accelerating rapidly since 1998. Of course, many states have raised the minimum age for driver's licenses or tightened restrictions; still, the downward trend holds true for 18- and 19-year-olds as well (see chart) and those in their 20s."

That's not all - the share of total miles driven is increasingly skewing towards older demographics as well. "The share of automobile miles driven by people aged 21 to 30 in the U.S. fell to 13.7% in 2009 from 18.3% in 2001 and 20.8% in 1995, according to data from the Federal Highway Administration's National Household Travel Survey released earlier this year." This while the total number of American 20-somethings increased, growing from 13.3% to 13.9% of the American population.

In other words, there's a growing generation gap in terms of total miles driven. Older folks are more likely to drive longer distances, while younger people generally make shorter trips in cars, if they drive at all.

AdAge blames the Internet, as well as changing ideas about worker productivity. "Time becomes really valuable to them," he said. "You can work on a train. You can't work in a car. And the difference is two to three hours a day, or about 25% of one's productive time," says William Draves, a higher-education consultant.

The entire article is worth a read - here's the link.

It's funny. As older folks draw closer to the ends of their lives, you'd think they'd be less interested in wasting a quarter of their dwindling lifetimes stuck behind a steering wheel. But that's just my insensitive, young-worker perspective. It's a beautiful day, and I'm off to take a pleasant bike ride back home.

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