Days around Thanksgiving mark the busiest travel period in the US every year. According to AAA’s latest survey, approximately 43 million Americans traveled this Thanksgiving; 90% of them by car for an average distance of 600 miles. Although Thanksgiving is an anomaly, it is a good time to reflect on recent trends in driving. After six decades of almost constant increases in the annual number of miles driven, Americans decreased their driving per capita by 7.4% from 2004 to 2012. A closer observation of this trend reveals that driving per capita was down especially sharply among Millennial, America’s largest generation that will increasingly dominate national transportation trends in decades to come. The decline in average vehicle miles traveled among those aged 16 to 34 fell by 23% in eight years. This trend matches up with the long-time slide in the rates that young people obtain drivers’ licenses. While about 87% of 19 year olds held drivers’ licenses in 1983, only 69% did in 2011. With Millennials being the largest cohort with 80 million, a sharp decline in driving among them is the strongest indication yet of a fundamental shift in mobility preferences and a signal that policy makers cannot ignore.
In order to provide alternative modes to driving, we need to strengthen our community transit services that in turn support strong and thriving communities. In those communities anyone, from the Millennials -who prefer taking public transportation- to the elderly and people with disabilities -who may not drive at all- have access to community transportation services.
The latest approach proposed to deploy new services and utilize available resources more effectively and efficiently is called mobility management which is now supported by federal transportation funding. Mobility management deploys a series of innovative strategies and relies on stakeholder collaboration in the communities where unmet need is paramount. The goal of mobility management is to create a continuum of community transit services regardless who owns the assets that can flexibly react to individual or small group demand at the local level. In Massachusetts the statewide transportation coordination initiative is governed by Executive Order 530 signed by Governor Patrick in 2011 and the ensuing recommendations of the Community, Social Service and Paratransit Transportation Commission that reviewed the state of paratransit, demand response and other community transportation services in 2012. To implement those recommendations, regional coordinating councils began to form. Please visit our site as we post information on the councils early January.