Millennials (Generation Y) are losing interest in the car

In my previous post we looked back in time when cars where selling off the shelf. Everybody wanted a car and the built environment was heavily designed to meet the needs of the car lovers.  Sprawl was born and has taken over now for more then 60 years. Now let’s look at today.  The story is changing.

In a recent article the New York Times reports how GM is turning to MTV to help convince the youth that they want cars.  The article goes on to note in 2008, 46.3 percent of potential drivers 19 years old and younger had drivers’ licenses, compared with 64.4 percent in 1998, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and drivers ages 21 to 30 drove 12 percent fewer miles in 2009 than they did in 1995.

Jordan Weissmann of The Atlantic explains this phenomena further in his recent article ‘Why Don’t Young Americans buy cars’. Here is an excerpt:

Of course, Millennials are more likely than past generations to live in an urban community, and this may be part of what terrifies car markers. About 32 percent reside in cities, somewhat higher than the proportion of Generation X’ers or Baby Boomers who did when they were the same age, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center report. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, surveys have found that 88 percent want to live in an urban environment. When they’re forced to settle down in a suburb, they prefer communities like Bethesda, Maryland, or Arlington, Virginia, which feature plenty of walking distance restaurants, retail, and public transportation to nearby Washington, DC.

If the Millennials truly become the peripatetic generation, walking to the office, the bus stop, or the corner store, it could mean a longterm dent in car sales. It’s doubly problematic if they choose to raise children in the city. Growing up in the ‘burbs was part of the reason driving was so central to Baby Boomers’ lives. Car keys meant freedom. To city dwellers, they mean struggling to find an empty parking spot. 

Jordan Weissmann continues to elaborate on this subject in this video interview with RT

How does this influence the Built Environment

So let’s look at the numbers. Baby Boomers, the largest generation at that time (about 76 million) had a high demand for cars, which heavily influenced the built environment and so resulted Sprawl as we know it today. Now today the Millennials are the largest generation at about 80 million and they are looking for walkable urbanism. For sure there is a changing tide coming as it pertains to the built environment. The demand for walkable urbanism is showing itself.  And not just in this area but in many other areas as I will explore in greater detail in the upcoming Part 2.