In the news

Sarah Rohrs

George Gong grew up in a family without a car and wants to maintain a lifestyle that not is overly dependent on the automobile.

The Vallejoan who relies on public transportation should fit well into a new world where reduction in driving will continue and people demand more choices to the automobile, according to a public policy report.

"A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America's Future," released by the CALPIRG Education Fund shows the slowdown in driving will continue in the years to come.

Garo Manjikian, legislative advocate for the CALPIRG Education Fund, said policy makers and lawmakers need to change their thinking and decisions to reflect a changing world in which driving is not the dominant way to get around.

"The Driving Boom is over," Manjikian aid. "The constant increases we saw in driving up until 2005 show no sign of returning."

Gong wrote in an email that it has become increasingly difficult to use public transportation in Vallejo due to the cutbacks, particularly in bus service. In addition, the city lacks late night bus and ferry service to accommodate tourists.

"Driving less doesn't work in Vallejo," he wrote.

But many are finding a way to make it work without automobiles.

Using data compiled by the U.S. Census and the National Household Travel Survey, CAlPIRG concluded that Americans have been driving less since 2004 when such usage peaked after decades of growth.

During the decades when "car was king," Americans drove more miles nearly every year between the end of World War II and the mid--2000s when driving slacked off and more Americans took to public transportation and bicycles, according to the report.

The so-called Millennial generation (people born between 1983 and 2000) are leading changes in transportation trends, Manjikian said. This group is driving significantly less than previous generations and demanding more choices, the report indicates.

Besides driving less, those in the Millennial generation are gravitating toward urban areas with walkable neighborhoods.

Manjikian said these trends demand policy makers take a different route toward transportation planning and spending.

Rather than justify "vast sums on new and expanded highways," funding should be directed toward repairs of existing infrastructure, plus new public transportation options.

Among other things, the report indicates that young people aged 16 to 34 drove 23 percent fewer miles on average in 2009 than they did in 2001.

That combined with Millennial-led decline in driving could lead to a decline in driving well below the peaks found in the mid-2000s, the report says. That decline may be apparent though this generation could boost American population by 21 percent.

Regardless of the reasons for the decline in driving, the report predicts just a 7 percent increase in automobile travel by 2040 which should be factored into public policy decisions.

These trends, if they hold up, will mean less gasoline usage, and less traffic condition. Further, toll rolls will be less financially viable and some highway expansion projects may start to look like "wasteful boondoggles," the report says.

TransForm Executive Director Stuart Cohen said spending priorities need to be changed, pointing out projects in which billions will be spent on highways and toll projects without any public transportation components.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.

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