America's love affair with the car is dying and being replaced by a new generation's obsession with technology and different ways of getting around.
Or so says a report released Tuesday by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group Foundation, which claims this country's waning interest in cars and trucks means policy makers have to set new priorities for spending transportation dollars.
"The driving boom is over," said Danny Katz, director of the CoPIRG Foundation. "America is driving less and young people are leading the way. And their culture is different."
The non-profit CoPIRG Foundation produced the report along with the Frontier Group, both organizations with strong environmental leanings.
They say that Americans drive fewer total miles today than we did eights years years ago. And the unique combinations of conditions that fueled the post-World War II driving boom — including cheap gas to the rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation — no longer exists.
A new generation of Milennials — people born between 1983 and 2000 — is taking over and its members drove 23 percent fewer miles on average in 2009 than they did in 2001.
Granted, the Great Recession accounted for some of the decline, Katz said, but not all of it.
Millennials are more likely to want to live in urban and walkable neighborhoods and are more open to "non-driving" forms of transportation than older Americans, he said.
Most importantly, Millennials are also the first generation to fully embrace mobile Internet-connected technologies, which are changing the way young Americans relate to one another, Katz said.
In fact, Millennials are almost downright apathetic about cars, compared to their parents and grandparents, the report said.
It cites a 2011 survey done by computer networking company Cisco, that said two out of three college students would choose an Internet connection over access to a car.
Less than 15 percent of Millennials describe themselves as "car enthusiasts" as opposed to 30 percent of Baby Boomers, the report also said.
Julie Hernandez is firmly in the growing corner of young adults who don't see the car as being that important. Hernandez, 23, is a senior at Metropolitan State University of Denver and commutes to classes by light rail and bus.
"I sold my car — it was just too much money to spend on insurance and gas," said Hernandez. "It's just cheaper this way. I'd rather spend my money on something else."