Today’s young people simply are not as obsessed with cars as previous generations. In the last 25 years car new vehicle purchases fell about 11 percent among adults ages 21-34. Even more shocking, the number of teenagers with licenses decreased by over a quarter from 1998 to 2008. Miles driven are down too. So, why are millennials forgoing personal automobiles? The better question may be why not?
Lifestyle. Millennials are flocking to urbanized areas where public transportation, biking, and walking are generally viable modes of transportation. This influx affects the demand for jobs, housing, services, and connectivity. Real estate developers are catering to (and profiting from) a new demand for modern, hip housing in lively neighborhoods with easy access to work, shopping, and nightlife. More and more neighborhoods are becoming increasingly walkable. With increasing population densities comes increased traffic congestion – driving short trips just does not make sense. And that does not even consider the cost of owning a car in urban cores. Here in Seattle monthly parking can run up to $250 in the most expensive lots and parking on the street is not cheaper either.
Options. New businesses like Car2Go and ZipCar add convenience to transportation by providing young people with access to cars when they need personal transportation, but do it without the extra costs of insurance, parking, and maintenance. Bikeshare systems are popping up in cities and towns around the country. Taxi’s still roam the streets but new companies like Lyft and Uber offer stiff competition.
Technology. All of these new transportation hinge on one key component: the smart phone. Don’t know the cab number? Just open your Uber App and a car will pick you up in minutes. Miss the bus? Pull up your Car2Go app and find the nearest available car. Think the sun deserves a nice bike ride? Open Spotcycle and see if bikeshare bikes are available near you.With access to limitless information and a slew of convenience options just seconds away, millennials care more about their phones than other physical possessions. And with so many communication options millennials can stay in touch with their friends without ever needing to leave the house.
Previously, urbanization also meant suburbanization as people flocked to cities for employment but desired to live in quieter suburbs where their children could get a quality education. demand for suburban housing also meant demand for roads. When the roads became congested we widened them to alleviated traffic but this only lead to more congestion through induced demand. Now, however, young people are increasingly looking to live within city limits where they have unparalleled access to amenities and culture. Millennials are delaying parenthood longer than any prior generation so quality schools are less important. Driving is a hassle and it takes away from valuable screen time (I this was more true but clearly many people drive and use cell phones).
Personal automobiles no longer meet the needs of increasingly connected young adults. The key to sustainable urban transportation is recognizing that millennials’ lifestyle preferences, need for options, and affinity for technology drive development. Next week I will examine the “try it before you buy it” approach to active transportation that can be the key to hooking new millennials.
- Why Millennials Are Ditching Cars And Redefining Ownership | NPR’s Morning Edition
- The Cheapest Generation | The Atlantic
- Why Don’t Young American’s Buy Cars | The Atlantic
- Are Millennials Too Poor for Parenthood? | The Huffington Post
- Generation X: America’s neglected ‘middle child’ | Pew Research
- The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change | Pew Research
- Fewer Millennial Moms Show U.S Birth Rate Drop Lasting | Bloomberg