The National Academies

NCHRP 08-36/Task 132 [Completed]

Understanding Changes in Youth Mobility
[ NCHRP 08-36 (Research for the AASHTO Standing Committee on Planning) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $124,976
Research Agency: The RAND Corporation
Principal Investigator: Matthew Coogan (RSG)
Effective Date: 7/21/2015
Completion Date: 2/1/2017



Studies find that in recent decades young adults in North America, Australia and much of Europe are becoming less likely to hold a driver’s license and less likely to drive than previous generations.  For example between 1995 and 2010, driver licensing rates for Americans under the age of 20 have declined 1.2% per annum and for those aged 20-29 at a rate of 0.6% per annum). Little is known, however, about the underlying causes of this trend and the effects of these changes on young adults and the transportation system more generally.  It is also unclear whether this trend is likely to continue as Generation Y reaches adulthood, and among future generations of youth. 


While researchers have given considerable attention to identifying and understanding patterns of travel behavior among diverse population groups including children, research on the mobility of teenagers and young adults is limited.  Youth have unique travel needs as they transition from dependence on their parents to independent adult mobility.  Unlike previous generations, today’s young adults are making their transition to independent mobility during the most unwelcoming job market since the Great Depression; they are the first generation to have never known a world without the Internet; and they face greater hurdles to driver’s licensing than any other generation.  Current research on youth tends to focus on teen driver safety or programs such as Safe Routes to School, yet these studies have limited generalizability to broader questions of youth mobility. 


Generation Y has now surpassed the baby boomers as America’s largest generation.  Understanding the current and evolving transportation needs of this generation will help inform transportation planning, project design, and operations that will increase safety, mobility and access for this unique population.  Decisions about priorities for the future transportation system must respond to changing travel behavior patterns. The challenges of constrained resources make forward-thinking and strategic decision making all the more relevant. 




The objectives of this research were to (1) better understand the changing mobility patterns of teens and young adults and the linkages to economic, social, and health effects; (2) highlight current best practices in transportation planning that addresses on youth mobility; and (3) identify potential strategies to better align planned and existing transportation systems with the needs of this demographic.


The report is now final and has been released as an AASHTO report as part of the NCHRP 08-36 Program.  Part I is the Final Report; and Part II is a set of Technical Appendices.   

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