Stay on the train, or join the traffic? Some young adults are rejecting cars.

Isaac just turned 18. (Yeah, I know.)

Anyway, I was talking to him about getting a photo ID that shows his age, so (if he should choose to) he can exercise his rights as an adult.

Many his age would get a Learner’s permit as part of learning to drive. But he has zero interest in doing that — in fact he has firmly said he doesn’t want it. And I’m not about to argue against that. Not me, who likes to avoid driving, and who didn’t get a driver’s licence until the age of 27.

Stay on the train, or join the traffic?

I wonder if not being interested in driving is becoming a Thing?

Looks like it might be in some circles.

Young people are shying away from getting their driver’s licence because they are keeping in touch with their friends online rather than in person, a new (US) study has found.
— Fairfax Drive: Young people choose computers over cars

What, Facebook is killing cars? Surely not — at least, not on its own — though it does seem that my kids go and visit their friends less than I used to when I was a teenager.

The article continues:

The figures tally with some recent Australian findings, which show that public transport use is booming as car use declines.

Twenty years ago, almost four out of five people between the ages of 20 and 24 had their full licence. By 2009, that figure had fallen to 51 per cent.

Social analyst David Chalke says that in Australia the increasing number of young people attending university for long periods of time in major metropolitan areas means that cars are more of a hassle than a convenience.

“With kids staying at university for longer, they’re more likely to want an iPad than a car,” Chalke says.

He says mobile devices mean people can also use their travelling time more effectively on public transport.

Good point, that last one. And Mr Chalke also notes that university life doesn’t mix well with cars — at many campuses, parking is expensive or scarce or both.

This trend ties in with some parts of the USA:

The latest generation of young adults has more alternatives to the car, Sheryl Connelly (Futurologist at Ford) suggests. Cities such as Portland, Oregon, have successfully encouraged far greater bike use, while public transport is far better in some places than 30 years ago.

“The car doesn’t hold the same imagery that it did in the Sixties or Seventies,” she says.

Financial Times

…and it seems to be borne out in other western countries as well:

The findings indicate that since the turn of the millennium, access to cars, measured in terms of drivers’ licences and household car ownership, has decreased in most study countries—especially for men. Moreover, average daily car travel distance has decreased in most study countries, again especially for men. In France, Japan, and most significantly in the USA, the decrease in car travel has led to a reduction in total everyday travel by young travellers. In Great Britain, the decline in car travel was partly, and in Germany fully, compensated by an increased use of alternative modes of transport.

Obviously there are a lot of factors, and it’s only a specific demographic, but I think this makes some sense.

If you live in a walkable neighbourhood, if your friends and the places you go are either local or easily accessible by bike or public transport, then why would you be interested in cars, especially given the costs of running them?

Opting out of using a parent’s car as well? That’s a step further that I find that really interesting.

In many cities, including Melbourne, of course it’s going to be different in different areas. We in Bentleigh do have a walkable suburb, with no roads more than 4 lanes in total (certainly no freeways), mostly straight and easily navigable streets, few cul-de-sacs and while the buses are nothing special, the trains run every 10 minutes every day of the week.

But some suburbs are really pedestrian-hostile, with very wide fast roads to cross, little within walking distance, and appalling public transport. I really doubt the reluctance to join motordom is a Thing in most outer suburbs.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

18 replies on “Stay on the train, or join the traffic? Some young adults are rejecting cars.”

It took me aaaages before I felt the need to get my licence (and that need was mostly motivated by the fact that my learner’s permit was about to expire). We manage with one car between the two of us, even though the public transport in my area is not great and many of the streets have either one footpath or none – fantastic in this rainy weather… The main reason I have my licence is so I can indulge in roadtrips; driving in the country is so much more fun than driving amidst all the selfish drivers in the suburbs, who seem to think red lights are for other people.

I wish there was more of a focus on public transport in this state. It’s a much more productive way to travel and I would use it more if I could.

It is certainly not as much “social death” for a young male to not drive, compared to 25 years ago.

But I really question the claim that the number of 20-to-24 years old who drive, has fallen from 80% to 51%. I don’t believe that, at all. I suspect that incomparable statistics are being used.

Cars are cheaper than ever and not everybody lives in a suburb like Bentleigh with good transport. Multi-car households are more prevalent than ever. And a lot more young women learn to drive than 30 years ago.

An object lesson in how to mislead with statistics:

“Twenty years ago, almost four out of five people between the ages of 20 and 24 had their full licence. By 2009, that figure had fallen to 51 per cent.”

Read the fine print. Perhaps the extension of “P”s from one year to three or four years, has something to do with that ?

I have noticed a decrease in the number of people getting a license even in my local area which has poor walkability and poor public transport. Being able to use your time more effectively on PT is a factor, along with owning a car not being such of an image thing in some circles an it once was. Another reason for the decrease in Victoria is that it is now a legal requirement to have a log showing 120 hours of supervised driving before getting your license, not just a recommendation like when I got mine. This can be difficult for some people as they may not have someone in their family who is willing or able to take them out driving as much as required.

I drive 350kms round trip to work and back a day in my large family sedan. I don’t care if it costs more, I’ll do anything so that I don’t have to live in a “walkable suburb”. I can’t see why there’s so much hate for cars, everyone just needs to get off the “greens will be our saviour” and the PT bandwagon already. We know PT is there, it exists, if we want to use it we will. BTW, I’m 24.

I am 41 years old, live in outer Melbourne.

I have never wanted to get a drivers licence.

Ironic is, today I had just come from VicRoads office, and put in an application for ‘proof of age card’, so I would have a category A photo Id, which I have recently found I do in deed need at times.

Great to see the trend starting.

I think there are many things the 120 hours makes it much harder for some, kids generally staying at home longer lowers the incentive for some, going on the gap year holiday, studying for longer the list goes on.
One pro of getting your license early even if you don’t drive much is that later in life when you come to get car insurance it will be much cheaper if you have held a license for 5+ years with no accidents. i.e. a quick check of a 2007 focus with aami would be about $840 for a 25 year old with 5+ years driving or about $2000 for a 1st year 25yo driver.

He should think about getting a learners, at least. Why go to the trouble and cost of getting a proof-of-age card when a learners performs the same function, with extra functionality (whether or not he wants to utilise it at this particular point in time?).

Driving is a useful skill to have, even if one uses it only occasionally. When Issac eventually does want to consider getting a car, he’ll be advantaged by having held a licence for a couple of years beforehand when it comes to obtaining insurance etc.

Walking is an even more production means of transport than public transport; I would rather if it we could actually think about that as a viable option. (Instead of building towers-of-Babel on gargantuan roads with trains underground, you just put buildings that might benefit from lifts, but don’t need em, and you stick exclusively to mixed use. Basically, you copy what people did for centuries before they invented the train or the car or the bicycle—average commutes to work in ancient Rome were shorter than in Melbourne today. It’s population was about a million.) Then, cars and trains and bikes would actually have an advantage, instead of being necessary to just break even.)

Jade, you’re lucky—you get to live in a major city that’s based around your preferred form of transport. What’s more, every major city in this country is based around it. Why complain? Sure, there’s traffic congestion, but we’ve discovered from years of trying that you can’t build yourself out of it—actually, Melbourne’s done very well compared to other cities around the world. You’re also reading a pro-transport blog—your host here used to be president of the Public Traspons User’s Association—so is it any surprise?

In any case, the advantage to reducing dependence on cars goes far beyond any supposed environmental benefits. Cars increase the incidence of loneliness, depression, anxiety disorders, diabetes, heart disease, back pain and other illnesses and social problems. They waste a lot of land, and so increase travel times for all people, not just those who prefer not to use them. People in all age groups are unable to drive, and many others have licences and yet are quite dangerous on the road.

In any case, housing costs suggest that walkable environments are undersupplied in Melbourne, compared to demand. So it seems that there really is a legitimate desire for them, even if nothing I’ve said is remotely true and it’s purely æsthetic. You wouldn’t be hurt from this; in fact, happier, healthier people are more productive and you’d benefit from that—even if you never drove your car anywhere near a walkable suburb.

Tried unsuccessfully to get a cab in South Caulfield tonight. Can’t be any better in Bentleigh. 18 years old? How did that happen. Daddy must be feeling old! I have noticed an extreme lack of car talk about cars among young men, as it used to happen in my youth. But there is still a serious demographic in some areas that seem pretty keen on cars. Melbourne will become further divided, among those who can easily use public transport, walk or ride a bike, to those who can’t. Using public transport keeps me in touch with the world outside my cocoon and I don’t think that is a bad thing.

I guess if the lad feels he needs a license and a car, he will get them.

Melbourne is the first place I have lived where my car is not needed on a daily basis. In most places in the US unless one is living in a large city such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco with good mass transit (public transport) a car is absolutely essential for a single person. In most surburbs and rural areas busses are hard to come by and work and stores are not walking distance from home. In most areas there are few bike lanes making biking dangerous.

Miami and it’s surburbs are a very good example of a very dangerous place to ride a bike to work, school, or shopping and few do. The heavy afternoon thunderstorms (almost daily during the rainy season) don’t encourage riding a bike or walking long distances either. Even my former co workers who did use the bus would often be late for work and sometimes arrive at work soaking wet from a downpour. Winter ice and snow along with very cold temperatures in the north often discourage walking and biking too.
I got my full driver’s license at 16 like most others my age did. At the time (and most likely still the case now too in most US states) there were no provisional or restricted licenses for young drivers. In Feb., 2014 I will have had my driver’s license for 30 years.

Most of my friends in the country town where I live got their licence around age 18. I was too nervous and failed my driving test three times in a row. After that I put off getting my licence until I had finished uni and got it much later by paying for the driving lessons myself. If I was still living out in the country I would need to drive, but as I am living near three different tram lines I don’t need one. I don’t really care that I have to spend more time in transit than if I just drive somewhere or the curfews of when I can get home.

I’d still be quite interested in seeing a genuine statistic as to the number of young adults with a license, as opposed to a bogus and misleading one. As far as independent mobility is concerned, a “full” license is not the issue, people can drive where they want with “P”s, and the extension of the P period will make the previous period statistics not comparable.

While there are perfectly good reasons why some people don’t feel they need a license, it is on the other hand also the case that society is richer than ever before and there are more cars per 1000 inhabitants than ever before. And certainly more young women drive than 30 years ago, in those days most of them could not afford it and had parents and boyfriends to drive them around. Young women are much more independent now.

Wait til he gets a girlfriend in Doncaster! From Bentleigh to a lovenest via public transport at any time of day suddenly becomes unattractive. That’s first-hand experience,

@Alasdair: My first girlfriend lived in Fitzroy near Alexandra Parade, and I was in McKinnon 15 minutes walk to the train station. I was able to get there without a car in forty or so minutes. In current traffic, Goggle suggests the trip will take 38 minutes by car.

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