Our apps are helping us drive less

The next time you fume when you see the numbskull in the car next to you texting from behind the wheel, consider this: mobile-phone applications are actually causing people drive less and use public transportation more.

According to a study by the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), mobile technology advancements are both directly and indirectly leading to less driving, especially among adults in the 16- to 34-year-old age range. Mobile apps make it easier for people to engage in carsharing and bikesharing as they also track bus and train schedules in real time. With the process of hailing cabs also improved, smartphone users are more likely to engage in multi-modal transportation as an alternative to the traditional private vehicle.

On top of figuring out how to get around using public transportation, people are more willing to ride buses and trains because they have smartphones, given that increased connectivity allows for greater productivity. Case in point? Amtrak's Capital Corridor route in California, whose ridership rose about three percent after it added WiFi. After all, you can't work while driving down the highway, despite those cool passenger seat desks. Combine all of the factors above, and the trends show some people are either ditching cars altogether or cutting down on the number of vehicles their family uses. Now if we could only do something about those smartphone texters behind the wheel. You can read PIRG's 49-page report here (PDF).

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