Carless: Young People Not That Into Driving

by Shilpi Paul

Courtesy of Capital Bikeshare

In Atlantic Cities this morning, Richard Florida compiled the results of several different studies that all support the same conclusion: Americans under 35 are driving a whole lot less than their parents.

First, the facts. According to U.S. PIRG, young people (16 to 34-year olds) significantly reduced the number of miles they drove between 2001 and 2009. In 2001, that group was averaging 10,300 miles per capita per year; in 2009, the mileage fell to 7,900. The number of young people who have a driver’s license — once considered that ultimate symbol of independence — is also dropping, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Statistics from 2010 reveal that 26 percent of 14 to 34-year olds do not have a license, compared with 21 percent in 2000.

So how are young people getting around? With the shift towards city living and smaller homes, the preferred methods appear to be by foot, by bicycle and using mass transit. Bike trips increased by 24 percent between 2001 and 2009, and passenger miles on mass transit trips rose by 40 percent, according to the PIRG study.

We’ve reported on studies that illustrate this group’s shifting values before: Generation Y is more likely to be drawn in by the right neighborhood, rather than a dream home. Also, an overwhelming number of Gen Y’ers want to be in an urban setting, willing to live in a smaller unit if a building has cool common areas.

All these numbers mark a definite cultural shift. These days, young people’s values are eco-friendly, economical, and DIY. People are starting to see cars not as a vehicle of freedom but as a burden that drains their wallet and contributes to a smoggier world. From Atlantic Cities:

“Whether it’s because they don’t want them, can’t afford them, or see them as a symbol of waste and environmental abuse,” [Richard Florida] wrote, “more and more people are ditching their cars and taking public transit or moving to more walkable neighborhoods where they can get by without them or by occasionally using a rental car or Zipcar.”

While it’s easy for young, single people to get themselves around on foot or a bike, we wonder how true the trend is for young families. Does toting children around and stocking a home full of groceries necessitate having a car? How true is this trend for urban couples with children? Readers, whether you are single or have children, let us know.

See other articles related to: transportation, metro, generation y, biking

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/young_people_not_that_into_driving/5394


  1. Anica said at 1:39 pm on Tuesday April 10, 2012:

    I’m 35 and this is right on the money. I gave up my car and moved to a walkable neighborhood. I’m lucky that my job is also within a very pleasant 1.5 mile walk. I use Zipcar and just signed up for car2go. My annual expenses for driving (including the hourly Zipcar fee which includes gas, insurance, etc.) is abouit $500-750.  I defy anyone with a car to top that!  My friends with kids are buying cars, but they are sticking to one-car households rather than completely reverting to a suburban lifestyle.

  1. Nikki said at 2:10 pm on Tuesday April 10, 2012:

    I agree…I got rid of my car because between the cost of insurance, parking and rising cost of gas it doesn’t make sense. I have quick access to the bus, metro and zipcar and spend much less than I would maintaining a vehicle…even if it were completely paid for!

  1. Ranada said at 2:13 pm on Tuesday April 10, 2012:

    I fit the non-car profile pretty exactly.  I grew up in the suburbs and never imagined not having a car.  Now that I live and work in DC, my car is long gone.  My apartment is next to the Waterfront metro station so there is a Safeway on the block and Chinatown, U Street and Columbia Heights (Target!) are all on the green line. I walk, bike or metro pretty much everywhere.  I’m even in the market for a bike trailer for my dog right now.  My friends with cars help out when it’s essential, but usually they leave their cars at home when we go out because it’s typically faster to get through the city by other means, cheaper than paying for parking everywhere, and a lot less stressful to grab and drink and not worry about a DUI.

  1. Rafael said at 2:25 pm on Tuesday April 10, 2012:

    Born and raised in DC, got along just fine without a car, always used public transit. If I want to go somewhere, I go to hertz and rent a car for a couple of days every month and I’m good to go. Much less of a hassle than buying car, paying for gas, paying insurance, paying for a parking spot and/or driving around for a half hour trying to look for a parking spot at 6 PM on a Tuesday.

    Someone mentioned car2go, that’s popped up around the SW/Waterfront area. Also Hertz has introduced a hertz on demand service as well which is similar (and I think cheaper) than Zip Car. Just a lot of options out there for those without cars.

  1. D said at 11:47 pm on Tuesday April 10, 2012:

    I’m 29 and echo Anica’s comment. The only way I could see myself buying a car is if I found myself with a kid.

  1. Dartagnan said at 9:29 am on Wednesday April 11, 2012:

    While I agree with some of the comments above, I will not give up my car because I am a car enthusiast. My previous car used to be in magazines and car shows, and my current car will be someday. Although I only drive approx 5- 6000 miles per year (last year that included a trip in Arkansas). I also walk to work, shops, etc. But will never give up my car. Plus I enjoy driving a manual transmission, rentals and zipcar does not offer that!

  1. gina said at 11:16 am on Wednesday April 11, 2012:

    Will never give up my car.  Yeah I’m old, and that’s why.  When you have physical problems, you can’t walk/bike to wherever you need to go.  But I have an LEV car, so I don’t have to drain/assault the environment completely.

    What I am interested in is what happens when these young people have children over 5.  Do they stay and transform the city where they live (where public schools for the most part suck), move to the expensive parts of the city with better schools, leave for the burbs?

    And if they leave for the burbs…won’t they need cars?  you can’t schlep your progeny to all the practices and events in a bike trailer.

  1. Rafael said at 11:47 am on Wednesday April 11, 2012:

    That’s down the line though, Gina. But to answer your question, I’d probably stay in the city. I don’t see myself living the suburban life and quite honestly the thought of living out in the burbs scares me. I’ve been a city guy my whole life, I just can’t turn on a switch and live the suburban life like that. I’d hate it.

    And I realize I’d probably have to get a car as well. I’m not against owning a car, but at this stage of my life, it’s not a necessity for me. And if I really need one for a couple of hours, I can pay $40 or whatever it is and do it.

  1. Ryan said at 1:49 pm on Wednesday April 11, 2012:

    I live in the heart of the city, use transit every day to go to work, and will never give up my car (I’m 26).

    On the weekends, transit in this city is unreliable (and at some times essentially non-existent), so I like having my own means of transportation so that I can be self-reliant when WMATA can’t do the job. I also like to get out of town and into the wilderness once a week, which you obviously can’t do via transit.

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