Analysis

Millennial generation changing the world, one commute at a time

Sure, Millennials get a bad rap. They're entitled! They're beard-sporting hipsters! They're addicted to their smartphones! Stereotypes abound. Well, in the future, we may have this generation to thank for changing the course of transportation and urban planning.

New research shows 20-somethings less likely to own a car, more likely to bus and bike

More Millennials commute by bike than the previous generation. (CBC )

Sure, Millennials get a bad rap. They're entitled! They're beard-sporting hipsters! They're addicted to their smartphones! Stereotypes abound.

But, in the future, we may be thanking this generation for changing the course of transportation and urban planning.

A growing body of statistics shows people under 35 are less likely to own a car, and more likely to travel by transit or bike.

An American report finds people aged 16 to 34 drove 23 per cent fewer miles on average in 2009 than they did in 2001. 

That's a greater decline in driving than any other age group.

A poll by Vancouver-based Insights West finds Metro Vancouverites aged 18 to 34 are 18 per cent less likely to drive than the previous generation.

Meet Millennial Dani Fecko 

Millennial Dani Fecko poses at her Granville Island apartment in front of an artist's depiction of Vancouver. Fecko enjoys getting around the city by bike and transit. (Michelle Eliot)

Dani Fecko doesn't own a car. She doesn't even have a driver's license.

The 28-year-old is happy to take the bus or ride her bike to her job at theatre company Boca Del Lupo.  

She lives with her husband near Granville Island in Vancouver, surrounded by coffee shops, restaurants, and shopping.

"We live in such a great location, we can get everywhere and it's actually faster for us not to have a car," says Fecko, who tweets as @DaniFecko.  

"It's as much of a cost thing, as an awareness that this is important."

Will downtown-dwelling Millennials be packing up for the 'burbs?

Living in a one-bedroom rental condo is great for single Millennials or couples, but what happens if they want more room for the pitter-patter of little feet?  

The appeal of affordable homes with more space and backyards may draw them to less transit-oriented suburbs.

"We will need to invest in public transport infrastructure so that Millennials, as they grow older, will have public transportation options available to them," says University of Waterloo assistant professor Markus Moos.

University of Waterloo professor Markus Moos says Millennials' commuting choices could affect the future of transportation. (Markus Moos )

Moos, who spoke recently at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University, says planners and politicians need to ensure the Millennial trend away from cars continues.

Fecko says she plans to buy a home at some point and hopes it will be in an affordable area with plenty of transit options and neighbourhood amenities.  

Will her search be successful? Planning experts hope the answer is yes.

Catch Michelle Eliot with On the Move, a segment on commuter issues, Tuesdays at 6:50 a.m. on The Early Edition, CBC Radio 1, 88.1 FM / 690 AM in Vancouver

About the Author

Michelle Eliot

Michelle Eliot is a journalist with CBC Radio in Vancouver. She is the studio director of The Early Edition, and can be heard as a guest host on CBC's On the Coast, BC Almanac, and The Story from Here.

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