Amer­i­cans’ love af­fair with driv­ing may be low on gas

The News Tribune - - Nation & World - BY ASH­LEY HALSEY III Washington Post

Amer­ica’s love af­fair with the au­to­mo­bile and those dreams of roar­ing off on open high­ways are on the wane as the na­tion grap­ples with too much stop-and-go traf­fic and too many hours spent be­hind the steer­ing wheel.

Those find­ings are con­tained in a re­port re­leased Thurs­day by Arity, a tech­nol­ogy re­search spinoff cre­ated two years ago by All­state In­sur­ance.

Arity un­der­scored the grow­ing dis­il­lu­sion­ment by us­ing a sin­gle illustration: Amer­i­cans, on av­er­age, spend more time in their cars — mostly driv­ing to and from work — than they re­ceive in va­ca­tion time. Arity re­searchers said most peo­ple av­er­age 321 hours in the car and get 120 hours of va­ca­tion.

“To me that re­ally crys­tal­lizes the is­sue,” said

Lisa Jill­son, who leads Arity’s re­search and de­sign depart­ment. “I get a cer­tain amount of va­ca­tion time, and I spend al­most three times that in my car just get­ting back and forth to a job.”

Her re­search showed a no­table dif­fer­ence be­tween mil­len­ni­als, born in the 1980s, and boomers from the early 1960s. Un­hap­pi­ness with driv­ing be­comes more pro­nounced, with 59 per­cent of mil­len­ni­als say­ing they’d “rather spend time do­ing more pro­duc­tive tasks than driv­ing,” while only 45 per­cent of baby boomers make that same state­ment.

“Mil­len­ni­als don’t see it as worth it any more. It’s not worth the (ex­pense of) car own­er­ship and traf­fic be­comes even more of a headache,” Jill­son said. “Boomers are more just com­fort­able that ‘this is the way things are,’ but mil­len­ni­als have seen how tech­nol­ogy can im­pact things for the bet­ter.”

The evo­lu­tion of the mil­len­nial ex­pe­ri­ence has been writ­ten ad nau­seam, but there are a cou­ple of salient points worth men­tion­ing. More so than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, they grew up with tech­nol­ogy and com­put­ers. They com­mu­ni­cate read­ily by cell­phone, with text mes­sag­ing and with other phone apps, so they have less need for face-to-face palaver than their pre­de­ces­sors.

They have less need to drive be­cause, as the fi­nan­cial ser­vices and in­vest­ment firm UBS re­ports: “Mo­bile tech­nol­ogy al­lows Mil­len­ni­als to man­age nearly ev­ery as­pect of their lives on­line and has al­tered how they con­sume in­for­ma­tion, make pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions and share feed­back.”

What’s more, mil­len­ni­als carry an in­or­di­nate part of the $1.3 tril­lion in stu­dent debt, and that in­flu­ences their de­ci­sions.

“Mil­len­ni­als also ap­pear to pre­fer liv­ing closer to met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas that of­fer em­ploy­ment and con­ve­nient, on-de­mand ser­vices,” UBS re­ports, “as they tend to flour­ish in met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas by uti­liz­ing the In­ter­net and mo­bile de­vices as a means of con­ve­niently pro­vid­ing ser­vices and things on de­mand with­out any own­er­ship com­mit­ment (e.g. Uber, Zip­car).”

Al­most twice as many mil­len­ni­als use ride-share ser­vices as do boomers, and they’re slightly more likely to rent a car or take pub­lic transportation,

Arity found.

“Ten years ago there weren’t any other op­tions un­less you lived near a train line,” Jill­son said. “Oth­er­wise, you had a car be­cause that was your only choice. Now, even in the ru­ral ar­eas, car share and ride share are big op­tions. You might wait a lit­tle longer, but it’s there.”

Half of mil­len­ni­als say they don’t think own­ing a car is worth the money and that they’d rather be more pro­duc­tive than driv­ing 321 hours a year. Jill­son need look no far­ther than her own house­hold, where two teenagers haven’t been ea­ger to get their driver’s li­cense.

“The idea of be­ing able to drive from Colorado to Ari­zona and see the sights of Amer­ica, that hasn’t gone away, but that’s not what we’re talk­ing about here,” she said. “We’re talk­ing about one per­son in one auto on re­ally con­gested roads, with a pretty heavy ex­pense. There is no open road on the day-to­day com­mute.”


Lisa Jill­son, who leads Arity’s re­search and de­sign depart­ment

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