Sam Schwartz, New York City’s Koch-era traffic commissioner, has a simple thesis in his new book, “Street Smart”: “Millennials are the first generation whose parents were more likely to
complain about their cars than get excited about them.
As kids, “millennials were driven through more traffic jams, more often, longer, and farther, than any generation in history.”…
What’s freedom to kids today? A walk, a bike ride or a short car ride — and, more often, a smartphone.
It’s all wonderful, then, that people are changing their behavior — except for the fact that the country needs for people to keep driving ever more miles so that it can fund its highway and transit infrastructure. Remember: Just as not everyone needed to default on his mortgage to cause a housing bust, not everyone needs to take the bus instead of a car to cause a roads bust…
One thing is clear, though: Even if presidential candidates are too afraid to talk about this stuff, they sure shouldn’t run against cities, when the voters are running toward them.
Less driving may just be a symptom of larger changes: living in denser areas (cities and suburbs with entertainment and cultural options within walking or mass transit distance), less public life outside the housing unit even with increased interaction with people through smartphones and the Internet, changing priorities in how to spend money for individuals (why would I pay for a car when spending that money elsewhere – say on experiences or the latest technology – gives me more desirable options?) and the government (it may be very difficult to maintain all those roads), and a declining interest among all Americans to simply drive (with a whole host of economic, political, and social influences here). At the same time, large social changes like these require time to work their way through a large society.