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Young Adults Giving Up Cars

I have never owned a car, and I'm 30.

A new report in AdAge suggests that I may, in fact, be part of a rising trend of young adults who are stepping on the the brakes. The share of auto miles driven by Americans between age 21 and 30 fell to 13.7% in 2009, down sharply from 18.3% in 2001 and 20.8% in 1995, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Personally, I have yet to really need a car. I live in New York City, which has the largest public transportation system in the country. I can either walk, subway or cab to most places. For other young non-drivers, the AdAge report says advances in web and mobile technology have made it easier to telecommute from home and work on trains and buses. Other factors weighing on car ownership include unemployment and the high price of insurance, as well as the growth of ZipCar, Connect By Hertz and other sharing programs. These by-the-hour car-sharing plans have been signing up early adopters and boosting their presence on college campuses.

The drop in driving makes sense for financially struggling 20-somethings: Not owning a car means a savings of close to $8,000 a year, according to Department of Transportation estimates. (That's operating cost based on 15,000 annual miles driven.)

The auto industry and related companies have taken note, and are trying new ways to appeal to young consumers. State Farm is putting more emphasis on its non-auto-related products. The insurance company just launched a new campaign focusing on younger consumers, emphasizing life, renters' and homeowners' policies rather than just car insurance. Ford Motor Co. recently unveiled a new built-in automobile feature called Sync, which reads text messages from your phone and follows voice commands. It's the 2.0 version of the hands-free set.

Now if only the country's mass transit systems could get us cell service underground.

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Old-school subway photo courtesy: bobolink's photostream on Flickr
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