Long accustomed to driving trends in U.S. society, the boomers may have met their match with the millennials–a generation (loosely defined as being between 18-33 or so, with some overlap with Gen-Xers, who are now in their mid-late 30s) that is changing attitudes about driving and car ownership. These changes have not received significant national attention as yet, but they have major implications for U.S. energy needs in the coming years.
As the boomers age and naturally drive less, the millennials are entering the stage when driving, measured by vehicle miles traveled, generally reaches its peak—but the historical patterns that have held true for the past 40 years aren’t being repeated today. In an analysis presented at the Energy Information Administration’s summer energy conference, Nancy McGuckin, a travel behavior analyst, showed that the number of miles traveled annually by drivers in the five age cohorts from 16-39 had declined by between 11 and 20 percent from 1995-2009. Because of that, VMT per licensed driver, which had risen steadily for decades prior to the 2000s, peaked in 2006-2007 and has been dropping since—falling from a high of 12,900 miles to about 12,500 in 2012 (figures are from EIA’s 2014 Annual Energy Outlook).
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In A New Direction