Monday, July 15, 2013

Shifting demographics means less people are driving

Recently, there has been several studies that have noted a shift in driving patterns in the United States. One of these reports in called “A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future.

In the report, the authors note that there has been a continuing decline in vehicle miles travelled (VMT) over the last decade. For example in 2012, absolute VMT was at 2004 level, and per capita VMT was at 1996 levels. The authors also found that those in the Millennial Generation are less likely to get a driver’s license, and those that do drive substantially less than previous generations.

Another major shift is that those in the Baby Boomer Generation are moving out of their peak driving years.

While this report focused on the US, I was wondering if this same trend was happening in BC.

TransLink is currently updating its long-range Regional Transportation Strategy, and as part of the process published “BACKGROUNDER #3: Trends & Challenges” which contains the following chart.

Licensed drivers as a percentage of age group population in BC. Source: 2011 Census of Population (Statistics Canada) and ICBC data analyzed by TransLink in September 2012. Click graph to enlarge.

This chart shows a few things. It shows that those in the Baby Boomer Generation in BC are moving out of their peak driving year. The chart also shows that the Millennial Generation in BC has a substantially lower percentage of licensed drivers than past generations. Historically, the percentage of people with driver’s licenses would rapidly increase in their early twenties. This is not happening today. As this data is for all of BC, I can only imagine that this change is even more pronounced in Metro Vancouver which has move transportation options than other parts of our province.

BC is following the same US trend of less people driving. This means that our transportation system needs to shift away from an auto-centric system to a people-centric, accessible system if we are to respond to the needs of the Millennial and Baby Boomer Generations.

In BC, it appears that the population is ready for a transportation system that focuses on walking, cycling, and transit, but it seems our governments have been slow to respond to this shift.

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