There is also growing research that younger generations do not relate to the automobile as enabling “freedom.” Instead, their electronic and social media devices–whether a smart phone, small lap top computer, music player, etc.–provide an alternate means for self expression and being free to do what they want. In the United States, kilometers driven by 18-34 year olds is declining, and this is likely the case in Canada as well (Neff, 2010). Younger generations seem to have less interest in automotive use, making apartment living in dense, walkable and transit-oriented urban areas a more natural fit for their lifestyles.
The other day I was in Fresno, California, a city that is starting to think about denser transit-oriented development around rapid bus corridors. Encouraging maps were being drawn, but there seemed to be a lot of doubt that bankers will ever lend for aggressive development of livable dense communities, or that developers will be courageous enough to build them.
If these bankers and developers are so smart, why are they assuming that their own preferences will also be their children’s? Many parents secretly want to see their children as perfect copies of themselves, but is the current investment paradigm really dependent on such shallow vanities? Shouldn’t they be listening to the young people who will determine the long-run payoffs of their investments?