The idea of a car as paramount to one’s daily commute is dwindling in numerous major U.S. cities. Who is behind this eco-friendly behavior? Millennials.
The Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) finds that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in Denver is declining, making room for the growing trend of alternative transportation methods, such as public transit and biking. Only recently did the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) acknowledge that their predicted “Driving Boom” is over, having overestimated the state’s VMT 61 consecutive times.
In 2009, millennials drove 23 percent fewer miles, on average, than they did in 2001. In response to the new trend, businesses like Denver B-Cycle — a company that offers publicly accessible bikes throughout the Mile High are for weekly, monthly, and yearly rates — are popping up. Last year, B-Cycle riders logged an estimated 560,400 miles.
Denver resident Rick Plenge, who uses the bike-sharing program to get to and from work, says to the Denver Post, “I live so close to work and home it’s so much easier to just go home for lunch or just stretch my legs. You just get to see the city at a much slower pace than if you were in a car. You see what’s going on in a neighborhood. It’s much more of a personal experience than driving a car.” Over the course of four years, Plenge alone has biked about 1,800 miles.
Aside from travel on two wheels, Denver’s Regional Transportation Department (RTD) has seen large growth spurts in the last few years. Light-rail ridership alone increased 14.9 percent in 2013, as reported by American Public Transportation Association. In response to its growing popularity, RTD is establishing numerous new transportation lines to neighboring suburban areas that currently have limited accessibility.
It’s obvious many of Denver’s commuters are looking to alternative methods of travel, and now, with FHWA’s acknowledgment of this fact, Denver may see an easier legislative road towards implementing appropriate changes to the city’s highways and roads. Gabe Klein, former Department of Transportation Director of both Chicago and Washington, D.C., comments, “I know from experience these forecasts have great importance in shaping debates and policy on every level of transportation funding. USDOT is clearly stating that a broad-based policy of building more road capacity for cars is not fiscally responsible or what the public needs or wants.”