23 Mar

The decoupling of drivers from population growth

This chart is damn useful. Can you see the point at which population and licensed car drives decouples? It’s somewhere between 1991-1997:

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What happened between 1991-1997 that began a shift in perception among young drivers?

While the decoupling is still not super drastic, that’s not a surprise. Like when a train car continues to follow along out of momentum, they still look close. But what happens as the decoupling continues?

Most American infrastructure decisions are made by people who live with assumptions that there is a coupling in that chart because they grew up during the coupling period.

“There has been lots of speculation about why fewer young people are getting driver’s licenses (and why even those who do have them seem to be driving less). Is it the economy, which has been particularly brutal for young people lately? Is it the rising cost of gas? Is it the tougher driver’s licensing laws that make it more expensive and difficult to get a license? Is it because young people are too busy cuddling with their iPhones and iPads to get behind the wheel?

There are arguments to be made for any and all of these explanations. But less often is the question asked: Why does it matter that young people just aren’t that into cars anymore?

One important reason it matters is because today’s young people are tomorrow’s main users of our transportation systems. If the useful life of the transportation infrastructure we build today — the highways, light rail lines, bike lanes and sidewalks — is roughly 40 years, that neatly envelops the peak earning and daily travel years of people currently in their late teens and early twenties. If fewer Millennials are driving, that should influence our choices about how we invest in transportation.”

(Via As Youth Driver Licensing Dips Again, A Focus on the Millennials | Streetsblog Capitol Hill.)