That’s a large proportional growth, but their share of all
millennials went from only 3 percent to 4. 5 percent.
The vast majority of millennials, said Taylor, live in the
suburbs and drive to work. When VMT decreased, it was
not because the average person drove less, but because the
types of travelers shifted. At the end of the period studied, in 2010, there were more multimodals and more
carless young people. The carless were more likely to be
unemployed and struggling economically. Their carless
lifestyle was not a choice.
“The vast majority of young travelers travel almost exclusively by automobile,” said the report Taylor helped write
for the Federal Highway Administration. That’s probably
because most millennials, like most Americans, live in
the suburbs. Just 4 percent of urban neighborhoods have
more travel by foot and transit than by car.
Undersupply of urban housing
But as Smart Growth America’s Zimmerman points out,
most Americans live in the suburbs because there’s an
oversupply of housing there and a very limited supply
downtown. Housing is now cheaper in most suburbs after
the policies of the past 50 years, followed by changing
consumer preferences, created a glut.
There are more people who want to live in a place where
they can walk to their daily needs than have it, Zimmerman said. “It takes a long time for the housing supply
to catch up.”
The undersupply of urban housing is partly driven by policy. “Much of city zoning requires single family housing,”
said Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute. “Until that’s corrected and zoning codes are more
flexible, people will be fighting over that limited option.
“Whether in the future there’s going to be more driving depends on [cities and their zoning codes]. Cities
are growing faster than suburbs. The basic trend is there.
Now we are failing to provide affordable housing in walkable neighborhoods.”
Litman has found what he called a “latent demand for
living in a more multimodal neighborhood. If you ask,
‘Would you rather drive less and rely more on walking,
biking and public transit?,’ most Americans would prefer to reduce their driving, provided their alternatives
It’s not just a matter of everyone wanting to live downtown. All types of neighborhoods are affected by changing
consumer demands. “An increasing portion of the suburbs
are redesigning themselves so they do have some mixed-used walkable neighborhoods,” said Litman.
Smaller cities are joining the trend. Schwartz, who runs
a transportation planning firm, Sam Schwartz Engineering, said, “We’re traveling to places we’ve never been
invited before.” In cities like Los Angeles, Tampa, Boise
and Grand Rapids, a lot of young people don’t want to
own a car. They have a host of options their parents did
not in the sprawling suburbs — ride-hailing services like
Uber, public transit, walking and biking. For housing
and transportation planners, all eyes are once again on
Joan Mooney is a freelance writer who has written
extensively about transportation for Urban Land
magazine and other publications. She also wrote
the NAR’s water infrastructure toolkit.
The majority of millennials live
in the suburbs and drive to work.