|Lil' OB, first day of senior year|
On our quiet little dead-end street, there will be no less than four 2015 high school grads come this June, including Lil' OB. I refer to them and their compadres as the "Youth of America."
"Good morning, Youth of America," I used to say to them as they waited at the bus stop during the grade and middle school years. Now they've all grown up. No more bus stop congregations.
You want to know something about the Youth of America, dear reader?
They don't care about driving.
This perplexed the Goat and your humble hostess when we saw it evidenced among some of Lil' OB's cohorts. They put off getting their drivers' licenses as long as possible. Parents were the ones coaxing kids to learn to drive. Plenty of parents had to issue a mandate: you have to get your license or else ...
Driving has become a necessity, not a recreation. Kids don't romanticize driving and cars the way older generations do. Kids don't cruise around. They don't hang out anymore. Social media has replaced the casual impromptu drive-in parties in parks and convenience store lots we all remember.
Turns out this is not just a thing around here. Per the U.S Federation of Public Interest Research Groups, "the percentage of high school seniors with driver’s licenses declined from 85 percent to 73 percent between 1996 and 2010, according to the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety, with federal data suggesting that the decline has continued since 2010." The Washington Post detailed what's behind those staggering numbers in this exhaustive article last fall.
|Humble Hostess with first VW Bug, circa 1981|
Dear reader, the Youths of America do not want cars. They don't want another loan on top of their student loan. They don't want to deal with insurance. They don't want to buy gas or pay for expensive parking spaces downtown. Driving is just a hassle. They don't care if you believe in climate change or not; they don't like hydrocarbon exhaust. And none of this is going to change any time soon.
Although I suspect the GOP will do everything in it's power to stop this trend, forcing people to drive more and buy cars is a tricky business, particularly when the good ol' free market offers up solutions like Zipcar and Uber. Read this Cleveland story to get an inside look at what users say about ridesharing. Nonetheless, there is a little problem brewing in this kettle of stone soup.
Car or no car, we all need it and we all finance the vehicular infrastructure with the gas tax, but per the first link up there: "Between 2001 and 2009, the average number of miles driven by 16- to 34-year-olds dropped by 23 percent."
Less miles driven means less gas purchased and less gasoline tax paid. Considering "both the Highway Account and the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund are nearing insolvency," this does not bode well.
And while this matter percolates beneath similar issues such as building a fiber optic infrastructure, maintaining the antiquated electrical grid (amid a burgeoning solar revolution) and even grappling with the landline telephone system, what's our Congress doing?
Why, worrying about rape and abortion, of course, and trying to repeal Obamacare, and broadcasting partisanship across the globe and and and ... doing nothing to shore up the middle class or solve its very real problems.
Who's going to pay for the roads when traffic is reduced by 25 or 50 percent or more?
Who is going to pay for the roads?
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