Millennials’ device culture illustrates subtle move away from cars

Movie theatre texting area a sign that the need to be attached to devices will speed move away from car culture

Today, we hear that U.S. company AMC Theatres may allow texting in certain seating areas during movies.

Company CEO Adam Aron said in an interview that he has considered allowing texting during screenings.  As he stated “You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone.”

His thinking appears to be that those who can’t seem to go more than a few minutes without checking their phones might have a new reason to side with AMC next time they see a movie. The millennials’ addiction to their devices is replacing their parents’ addiction and fascination with the automobile.

Nobody wants to admit that there is a permanent structural shift that will affect the automobile industry and demand for oil, attributable to a generational paradigm shift. Even with cheap oil, many millennials see car commuting as a chore that keeps them away from being connected electronically.

It’s an issue of elasticity of demand and substitution. The millennials have technological replacements we did not have to automobile travel, a generation ago. There is a very strong trend among young people away from automobiles.

Every time insurance rates increase, the millennial will increase their incentive for using transit. Every time a millennial is stuck in traffic wasting time and fuel, they will increase their incentive for transit.

The millennial generation is more interested in time management and being connected, compared with their parents’ fascination with the inefficient car culture. There is data to support these observations. In 2008, 46.3 per cent of potential drivers age 19 and younger in the U.S. had drivers licences, compared with 64.4 per cent in 1998, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and drivers aged 21 to 30 drove 12 per cent fewer miles in 2009 than they did in 1995.

There is much empirical evidence that boomers and the millennial generation, the two largest demographic groups in North America, are converging in a time-of-life moment where what they want is walkable, compact, higher density, service-rich, transit-oriented communities and destinations.

This is the reason that they are very unlikely to save the suburban-based, auto-dependent model of urban development. These fundamental shifts need to be incorporated into the macroeconomic (econometric) models forecasting GDP growth, inflation and tax revenues of Canada and the US. There is a permanent decrease in demand.

We are already seeing the effect on the Canadian dollar, a petro-currency.

Avi Ickovich


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