New study shows how better communication technology is leading to less driving

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Screen capture US PIRG

We go on about how Staying connected may be worth more you young people than a set of wheels, and how the smart phone is changing the way we live and work. Now Jarrett Walker of Human Transit points to a new study from the US PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) that looks at how and why technology is changing the way we live and the amount we drive.

© Market Penetration of Major Technologies in 2000 versus 2012

The study notes that "technology-enabled transportation services have the potential to change Americans’ transportation behaviors."

  • Technology-enabled services can eliminate traditional barriers that prevent Americans from taking public transit or sharing rides and vehicles.
  • The array of new services can make it easier for households to reduce the number of vehicles they own—a step that generally leads to steep reductions in driving.
  • Technology-enabled services can expand the availability of transportation choices in places and markets where they are not currently available.
  • Access to mobile technology also enables riders to use their time riding on trains or waiting for buses more productively. This provides shared transportation with a market advantage over driving, since the use of mobile technology is increasingly understood as being incompatible with the safe operation of a car.

Even if you use a car, technology and alternatives like car-sharing will help you use it less.

Because many of the costs of owning a car are perceived to be fixed, vehicle owners perceive the cost of driving an additional mile to be artificially low. New services such as car-sharing shift the cost of driving from fixed to per-mile costs, providing an incentive for users to drive less and allowing many households to reduce their overall spending on transportation.

In urban centers, I am not even certain that car owners consider the costs to be fixed anymore. The costs of parking (and parking tickets) are so high these days that people are thinking twice about using their cars at all. The alternatives are looking more and more attractive:

The rapid advance of the Internet, mobile communications technologies and social networking—and the technology- enabled transportation services they are spawning—has the potential to expand the share of American households with the freedom to live without a car, or to live with fewer cars than they own today. These new tools give Americans a broader array of convenient, flexible transportation choices—enabling them to drive when and where they need to, share rides where they can, and take full advantage of the particular benefits of public transportation, bicycling and walking.

© Doug Short

Whether it is the increase in numbers of people working from home, e-commerce, dematerialization of products like books and music, or simply the fact that communication is easier than it has ever been, The fact is that technology is reducing both the need and the want to drive.

Read it all at US PIRG

Tags: Bike Sharing | Car Sharing | iPhone

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