Ditching the automobile for a different mobile

by Sharlyn Petit
   Remember Jon’s local straw poll on fewer teens getting licenses? The trend of teen drivers postponing car ownership is here to stay. Fuel costs, maintenance, and car payments are all partly to blame.
   Also, old-fashioned face-to-face hangouts have been replaced by a barrage of digital communication tools that text, tweet, and tag all of the things teens want to express. All it takes is a mobile phone for teens to keep up with their circles and build their identities without ever having to drive a mile.
   
Today’s teens are somewhere between Millennials and a new generation whose name is up for discussion (Generation Z, post-Millennials, Homelanders, and iGen are contenders). Back in 1999, we early Millennials used landline phones, passed notes in class, and gossiped away during lunch and after school. The annual yearbook was the closest thing we had to writing on each other’s walls. That was our social networking, and every generation has its own version to tell of “how it was when.…”
   
Then, along came the mobile phone with its Internet, texts, and apps. A survey conducted by Zipcar earlier this year showed that Millennials are the only generation to believe giving up their mobile phone would have a greater negative impact than giving up their car. Nearly 40 percent of Millennials would choose their mobile phones over their cars, TVs, or computers, compared to only 16 percent of those ages 35+. No car, or no phone – which is the greater tragedy?
   
I try to defend early Millennials against some of the traits that “define” us – lazy, impatient, entitled – but my attitude toward transportation might be right in line these days. Mine is a one-car household because everything I need is within a 2-mile radius. I use ride-sharing services when I don’t feel like finding a place to park downtown, and I’d rather take a train or bus for long distances so I can use the Wi-Fi instead of wasting time behind the wheel for hours. My mobile phone actually helps me not drive with its walking maps and other apps.
   
Man, that sounds lazy, impatient, and entitled. If that makes me a Millennial driver, I guess I’ll have to stand behind my generation and the mobile phone.

by  Jon Osterberg

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