ó Consider Jake Gau a multimodal millennial.
chillier mornings, the 25-year-old rehabilitation aide
hops on the No. 30 bus in northeast Minneapolis bound
for his job at the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation
Institute in Golden Valley. On warmer days, he pedals
his mountain bike westward to work.
missing from his array of transportation options ó a
car. And thatís just fine with him.
of the millennial generation ó roughly 77 million
Americans born between 1983 and 2000 ó is decidedly
lukewarm when it comes to Americansí century-long love
affair with the automobile. They appear to prefer
biking, walking, taking mass transit and sharing cars,
exhibiting behavior that could have a profound effect on
transportation and land-use policies for years to come.
policy tends to be a generation behind, weíre still
trying to build our grandfatherís interstate highway
system," said Phineas Baxandall, a senior analyst
with the consumer group U.S. PIRG. Policymakers should
not only accommodate Gen Yís desire to drive less, but
encourage it, he said.
spent a number of years talking about millennials and
how they have different sensibilities when it comes to
transportation," said Minnesota state Sen. Scott
Dibble, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
"Now we have to respond with policy."
state Rep. Tim Kelly, who is about to become chairman of
the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee,
said whether millennials eschew cars "really
depends on where they live. If you grew up in Eveleth,
and thereís no other way to get around than to hop in
said it is imperative that policymakers "look to
see what kind of changes this new generation provides
us. Itís important to listen."
adulthood during the most recent recession, many
millennials are too debt-laden and underemployed to
afford a car. They see mass transit, biking and walking
as not only cheaper, but also good for their health and
for example, often walks several miles in the final leg
of his commute. Whippet-thin, he says itís "a
great workout. Iím calmer; itís a great way to start
and end my day." Whether heís part of the
mittened masses on the bus or pedaling solo, he observes
commuters alone in their cars.
seem really stressed out," he said.
the past decade, more and more young people have chosen
to drive less ó in stark contrast to the Gen X and
baby boomer generations, where a driverís license was
the ticket to adulthood and freedom from their parents.
to a 2013 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic
Safety, less than half (about 44 percent) of teens
obtain a driverís license within 12 months of the
minimum age for licensing in their respective state.
Roughly 54 percent are licensed before their 18th
birthday. AAA says the findings are a significant drop
from two decades ago, when two-thirds of teens were
licensed by the time they were 18.
reasons for the decline likely include the rise of
telecommuting, online commerce, housing options that
tout walkability and social media.
are more connected now, itís easier to reach out to
your friends," said Lacey Plache, chief economist
for the auto website Edmunds.com. "Itís less
likely that (millennials) will gather up their friends
and go cruising," as was the case with previous
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recession that hit in 2008 slowed economic growth,
particularly for millennials entering the workforce,
Plache said. For someone still camped in his parentsí
basement, buying a car doesnít seem terribly
are not driving much, and it seems to come down to
cost," said Michael Green, AAA spokesman. "The
weakness in the economy has disproportionately affected
millennials, and owning a car can cost money, plus gas
the delayed-driving trend will reverse once millennials
enter their peak employment and child-rearing years ó
ages 35 to 54 when driving tops out ó remains to be
donít rule out the allure of the car, at least to some
analysis released by the research firm J.D. Power
indicates that Gen Y (defined in the report as people
born between 1977 and 1994) now account for a larger
percentage of U.S. new-vehicle sales than Generation X.
(Baby boomers, however, still remain the biggest buying
of July, Gen Y buyers accounted for 26 percent of new
auto sales for the year, slightly above 24 percent for
Generation X. This year, Gen Y sales are expected to
grow 17 percent, a surge auto analysts attribute to
these young consumers entering new life stages as their
income increases and families grow.
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of U.S. PIRG, says certain generational habits formed at
a young age tend to stick, such as the thriftiness
imbued in those who grew up during the Great Depression
of the 1930s. "If, before youíve settled into
middle age, youíve experienced that you donít need a
car, that could shape your expectations in the
future," he said.
course, not all millennials are waiting to apply for
their license, particularly those living in areas where
public transit options are few.
Olson and Liz Gfrerer, both 15, canít wait to test
their driving mettle. For these freshmen at Roseville
Area High School, driving represents independence.
"I really want a license," Gfrerer, said while
shopping recently at Rosedale. "I want to be able
to go out on my own."
says her mother is supportive, too. "Sheís sick
of chauffeuring me around."
asked whether they ever take the bus, Olson replied,
"You mean the school bus?"
overall, AAA found that one in three teens wait to get
their licenses until theyíre 18. Observers see a link
between that and the growth of graduated driverís
license systems across the country. That includes
Minnesota, where 15-year-olds may first apply for a
learnerís permit, leading to a provisional license at
16 and a full license a year later.
millennial indifference to driving also comes as transit
options are widening, enabling a generation that is
comfortable patching together a multimodal existence.
are changing the conversation," said Hilary Reeves,
spokeswoman for the St. Paul nonprofit Transit for
Livable Communities, which plans on lobbying during the
impending legislative session for more transit options.
"When it comes to transportation, millennials are
signaling they want options for getting around ó
transit and communities connected by bicycling and
2013 survey by the Urban Land Institute indicates
millennials will have a profound impact on land use in
years to come. Fifty-nine percent say they prefer
diversity in housing choices; 62 percent desire housing
near shopping, dining and office space; and 76 percent
place a high value on walkability in their communities.
Reiner, 26, a young lawyer who commutes to downtown
Minneapolis on the Metro Transit Green Line, said he and
his girlfriend, Emma Fazio, deliberately chose to live
in the Midway area of St. Paul because of its proximity
to light rail. Each morning, they leave their house and
head to the Snelling Avenue Green Line station ó she
departs on the St. Paul-bound train, and he heads to
we live, everything is centrally located," he said.