Survey: Millennials Willing to Relocate for Better Transportation Options

Photo: Flickr Gareth Williams
Young people around the country express a preference for places that are walkable and provide access to transit. Photo: Gareth Williams/Flickr

Young people want to live in cities that give them a variety of transportation options and make it easy to get around without a car. That’s the key finding from a new survey of more than 700 young adults by the Global Strategy Group. The survey was commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation and Transportation for America.

Researchers surveyed people aged 18 to 34 across 10 metro regions with varying levels of transit service. From Chicago to Tampa to Los Angeles, young people reported a preference for places that are walkable and transit-friendly.

Four in five respondents reported they would like to live in a city where they could get around without a car. And almost three in four said neighborhoods without transit access were less appealing places to live.

A strong majority — 66 percent — said that access to high-quality transportation is one of the top three criteria for choosing a place to live. And 54 percent even said they would consider moving to a city with better transportation options.

Even when considering cities and neighborhoods to visit, young people don’t want to be forced to drive — 65 percent called it a “major inconvenience” to visit an area where transit connections are poor.

“These findings confirm what we have heard from the business and elected leaders we work with across the country,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. “The talented young workforce that every region is trying to recruit expects to live in places where they can find walkable neighborhoods with convenient access to public transportation.”

The researchers cautioned that the results might suffer from a bit of a “self-selection bias” because the survey only examined young people already living in cities. But there was surprising consistency between responses from millennials living in stronger transit cities like San Francisco and weaker ones like Indianapolis.

Young people in cities with strong transportation systems were more likely not to own a car. Only 45 percent of respondents in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco reported they had access to a household car, compared to 80 percent in less transit-friendly cities such as Indianapolis, Nashville, and Tampa.

But among those who lived in cities with weak transit, 72 percent reported they would drive less if they had more options. In those cities, 84 percent of respondents confirmed they would like more transit options.

Michael Myers, a managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation, said these findings should impress on civic leaders around the U.S. the importance of transit and walkability to local economies.

“Young people are the key to advancing innovation and economic competitiveness in our urban areas,” he said. “This survey reinforces that cities that don’t invest in effective transportation options stand to lose out in the long run.”

  • Lars Ulrich

    Breaking news. Association releases survey that confirms its views.

    Ask the millennials 10 years from now how they’re faring in attaining home equity

  • sforick

    Good reason to vote no on SF transportation bonds and VLF.
    San Francisco is full. Please take the next city 🙂

  • murphstahoe

    Because Home Equity is so much more valuable than stock equity!

  • keenplanner

    This whole trend, great as it is, is getting to be old news!

  • Dave Weckl

    “The researchers cautioned that the results might suffer from a bit of a “self-selection bias” because the survey only examined young people already living in cities”

    Really…you think? Nice job of burying the very important caveats. Then again, research and analysis are not this blog’s strength.

  • 42apples

    “Four in five respondents reported they would like to live in a city where they could get around without a car. And almost three in four said neighborhoods without transit access were less appealing places to live.”

    That’s not exactly encouraging. 1 in 5 don’t care about getting places without a car and 1 in 4 don’t care at all about transit access. 25% of millenials in cities pretty much want to get out. And that says nothing about the ones who don’t live in cities anymore.

  • StanislausBabalistic

    Cool, yeah, cause we can TOTALLY afford to buy property.

  • Guest

    This study didn’t limit itself to young people “in cities”. It’s in Megaregions, as in urbanized areas including suburban and exurban areas. So 80% would like to live where they can be transit, rather than auto-dependent. Almost 75% said that living in a place where there’s no good transit option is less appealing.

    This could well mean than 20% (a low percentage) are at least neutral to the suburban lifestyle, and 25% wouldn’t choose a place to live based on transit-access. How is that not good news? Last I checked, 75-80% beat 20-25% in regard to referendums on transit every time. And that doesn’t even account for the fact that that 20-25% might still vote for transit.

  • Marc Dreyfuss

    Not all cities are transit-heavy. Ever been to Tampa? Or Richmond? Or Wilmington? Or Hartford? 80% would like to live where they can be transit, rather than auto-dependent. Almost 75% said that living in a place where there’s no good transit option is less appealing.

    This could well mean than 20% (a low percentage) are at least neutral to the suburban lifestyle, and 25% wouldn’t choose a place to live based on transit-access. How is that not good news? Last I checked, 75-80% beat 20-25% in regard to referendums on transit every time. And that doesn’t even account for the fact that that 20-25% might still vote for transit.

  • 42apples

    Where did you find that it’s megaregions? The survey says “cities.” It’s a pretty small sample size too. And even in NY, SF, and Chicago, more than 60% say having access to a car is important. I think there is a small shift in attitudes among suburbanites (me for example), but not such a dramatic change that Streetsblog mentions. Most millenials want to own a car, want to own a house, and want to live in a suburb.

  • Bolwerk

    700 ought to be a pretty efficacious sample size.

  • Bolwerk

    It’s “buried” precisely because it’s not that important, and you even skipped over the part of the paragraph where it was explained why the researchers contended it wasn’t very important.

    In a full blown research paper, which can run dozens or more pages, the standard place to put that type of information is at the end of the paper in a section called “Discussion,” where everyone even semi-literate in comprehending such things knows where to find it.

  • Streetsblog Network

    Yeah, they’re talking about regions.

  • Jame

    Have you looked at prices lately? And student loan debt? And underemployment rates? Home ownership is significantly delayed due to lack of money.

  • Dave weckl

    Actually…the survey design and methodology (e.g., survey size, population, sampling, design, etc.) goes at the beginning along with a discussion of data sources. Regardless, the survey suffers from self selection bias. And, it is regional data and not city (CBD) only. But, the conclusion made here is specific to cities. Not logical.

  • Bolwerk

    Methodology goes more in the middle, after things like abstracts, hypotheses, and literature reviews. The discussion of the flaws in the methodology falls under the discussion section, after the methodology is laid out and the results presented, but before a conclusion is drawn. All research has potential flaws/limitations that need to be discussed.

    The press release said it took place within cities (this probably means the political boundaries of cities, but not necessarily CBDs). The potential self-selection is the people in the study already live in and many have chosen to live in cities. However, studying individuals in transit-weak cities may very well be an efficacious alternative to studying transit-weak suburbs.

    A bigger flaw is it doesn’t say much about transit-free exurbs or rural areas. Still, if you account for these limitations, I don’t see anything hugely wrong with drawing conclusions from these results.

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