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It's Official: The Driving Boom is Over

By: Jim O'Grady

This story previously appeared on Transportation Nation

America's "driving boom" is over. So says a study by U.S. Public Interest Group, which found that after six decades of steady increases in drivership, the trend has reversed.

The study says the turning point came in 2004, when miles driven per capita dropped for the first time since the end of World War II. It's been dropping ever since. Total miles driven by Americans has been declining since 2007. (See chart above.)

As Baby Boomers retire from the ranks of commuters, they're being replaced by 16 to 34 year-olds, who drive about 25 percent less than they did in 2001—a greater decline in driving than any other age group. Another study found that the percentage of young people with a driver's license has been dropping since the early 1980's.

That's partly because traffic congestion has been slowing commutes since the early 90s. And it's because young people are more likely to use mass transit and live in walkable neighborhoods.

The report notes that, "the driving boom during the second half of the 20th century was fueled by low gas prices, rapid suburbanization, and an ever-increasing number of women commuters entering the workforce," and concludes that "the number of miles driven annually will be far fewer in the future than if Baby Boom trends had continued." In one projection of future trends, the report says, "driving won’t ever regain its 2007 peak during the range of the study, which extends to 2040."

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