Something is changing in America. People aren't driving as much – even taking into account that the recession and unemployment reduces commuting. Several people, including a writer for Ad Age magazine, have noticed a dip in the rates at which young people are getting driver's licenses.
Jack Neff, writing in the May 31 AdAge.com, says, "The automobile, once a rite of passage for American youth, is becoming less relevant to a growing number of people under 30." His piece shows the stats that back up that thesis.
Similarly, Nate Silver, writing in the May 6 Esquire, opens his piece this way: "This is surely one of the signs of the apocalypse: Americans aren't driving as much as they used to."
And the ubiquitous Richard Florida, writing at theatlantic.com, points to Neff and Silver's articles and ponders whether his predicted "great reset" is taking place. This view dovetails nicely with Florida's new book, "The Great Reset." He's been writing about "resets" for the Atlantic for some time now.
If you read the pieces it's hard not to think they're onto something. AdAge, especially, is known more for pointing to consumer trends than for worrying about issues such as the fiscal and environmental irresponsibility of suburban sprawl.
But here's another sign that something truly is changing. Automakers *#8211; who have nothing if not a history of extraordinarily effecting ad campaigns – are changing the backdrops on their ads, using more sexy urban scenes and fewer beautiful wilderness scenes. Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez point this out in a June 3 Huffington Post piece, From Upstream to Downtown: Car Ads Head to the City. The two are authors of the book "Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and its Effect on Our Lives." In the HuffPost piece, they write, "Just when some of us have decided we want to live in places where we don't have to be quite so dependent on the automobile, the automobile is trying to follow us there."
If you're interested in more about "Carjacked" – a book I recommend as one that looks at the world in ways you probably hadn't thought of before – here's a Q/A I did with Fernandez for OnEarth.org.