News Release

New Study Finds Technology Enabling Americans to Drive Less

GoogleMaps and soon to come Philadelphia Bike Share examples of Tools Sparking National Decrease in Driving
For Immediate Release

Contact: Ashley Afranie-Sakyi, PennPIRG Education Fund

Office: 215-732-3774

Cell: 703-470-0469

PHILADELPHA, PA – In a first-of-its-kind study, PennPIRG compiled nation-wide evidence on transportation apps and vehicle sharing programs, and found that these advanced new tools have made it easier for Americans to drive less. Real-time apps and on-board wi-fi for public transit, as well as carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing have spread rapidly in recent years. The report examines new evidence on how these practices are changing travel behavior.

“Personal auto ownership used to be the clear ticket to mobility” said Ashley Afranie-Sakyi at PennPIRG Education Fund, which released the report http://pennpirg.org/reports/pap/new-way-go .“For Baby Boomers, driving your car represented freedom and spontaneity. But today–especially for younger people–owning a car increasingly represents big expenses and parking hassles. Technology and vehicle-sharing services have started to make it easier not to own a car or for households to own fewer. Public transit systems, especially with on-board wi-fi and real-time apps, can be the backbone of this new mobility.”

The report, “A New Way to Go: The Apps, Maps, and New Technologies that are Giving More Americans Freedom to Drive Less” sheds additional light on how  Americans have been driving less per-person for eight years in a row and total miles remain below 2005 levels (Federal highway data). In Pennsylvania people have reduced their driving miles by 10.4 percent per person since 2005.

Among the findings cited in the report:

• Public transit enhancements—A majority of U.S. transit systems make scheduling publicly available for developers to produce smartphone apps to help riders navigate systems. Smartphone-based tools enable riders to find the best route and track the progress of trains and buses in real time.

• Bikesharing – More than 30 cities now have programs where subscribers can access bikes by the minute or by subscription at kiosks located on city streets. Approximately 40 percent of bikeshare members report reducing their driving, according to a survey of members of four bikeshare services.

• Carsharing– Roundtrip carsharing services, such as Zipcar as well as newer one-way services such as car2go enable subscribers to access cars located in their neighborhoods, providing the mobility benefits of access to a car without having to bear the burden of owning one. As of 2012, more than 800,000 Americans were members of carsharing services. Each carsharing vehicle replaces nine to 13 privately-owned vehicles. The average carsharing participant reduces his or her driving by 27 to 56 percent while increasing ridership on transit and biking. 

• Ridesharing and taxi-like services—New peer-to-peer carsharing networks enable individuals to rent out their own unused vehicles to people looking for a car. Drivers with open seats in their cars can pair with other individuals who need a ride. Companies such as Lyft allow ordinary drivers to provide web-based taxi-like services during their spare time.

• Young Americans have consistently been the first to adopt and test these new technologies and practices. As of September 2012, young adults were six times more likely to have a smartphone than their grandparents’ generation, and twice as likely as Americans 50 to 64 years of age. 

Findings from a separate report released today by the American Public Transit Association (APTA) reinforce those from PennPIRG. APTA’s study of Millennials revealed that 70 percent use multiple alternatives instead of the car several times or more per week. Millennials also view public transit as the superior mode for digital multitasking. A Majority of Millennials view transit-based wi-fi and mobile broadband as well as real-time information about bus and train locations as important.

"This analysis demonstrates that states like Pennsylvania simply must embrace the notion that it is in its best interest to knit together an integrated transportation network that provides its residents with multiple choices on how to travel between work, school, shopping and their homes" said Sarah Stuart, Policy Director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.   "This report makes the case for why Pennsylvania needs a robust and comprehensive transportation funding bill now, not later.  Decision makers should heed the call and grab the opportunity to do what best for Pennsylvania's future." 

“In the past, people often felt little choice but to depend on personal cars. Once you’ve already paid for a car and insurance, then it’s harder to consider other choices,” said Afranie-Sakyi, “The new tools make it easier to not own a car or own fewer cars. New apps make it easy to catch a bus and ride unfamiliar routes. Bikeshare or rideshare can be the perfect complement when public transit doesn’t reach nearby your destination, when weather changes, or unexpected errands arise.”

The report provides policy makers with a number of recommendations such as to install more wi-fi on public transit and to integrate bike and car sharing into traffic management plans and near transit stations. Highway expansion projects should be reconsidered and canceled if no longer justified.

“These technological tools and practices are still in their infancy but spreading fast. Government leaders should focus less on expanding highway capacity and more on public transit, biking, walking and other alternatives to personal cars,“ said Ashley Afranie-Sakyi.

Download “A New Way to Go: The Apps, Maps, and New Technologies that are Giving More Americans Freedom to Drive Less” http://pennpirg.org/reports/pap/new-way-go. 

See other recent reports on state-by-state declines in driving, the Millennial generation’s leading role in this trend, and the policy implications at: http://uspirg.org/topics/transportation 

# # #

 PennPIRG Education Fund works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer meaningful opportunities for civic participation. www.pennpirgedfund.org

Defend the CFPB

Tell your senators to oppose the “Financial CHOICE Act,” which would gut Wall Street reforms and destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as we know it.

Support Us

Your donation supports PennPIRG's work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.

Consumer Alerts

Join our network and stay up to date on our campaigns, get important consumer updates and take action on critical issues.
Optional Member Code