Can a youthful generation liberate our car-clogged cities? It’s a question that more than a few people have been wondering lately.
“Throughout the rich world, the young are falling out of love with cars,” proclaimed a February headline in The Economist. Another recent article, in the New York Post, noted that around 25% of American 16-year-olds had a driver’s license in 2020, down from 40% in 1997. “Zoomers are shunning cars and driver’s licenses,” observed the Washington Post. “Will it last?”
It almost certainly won’t.
Despite the fond hopes of many urban planners and mobility advocates (as well as some journalists), generational preferences are no match for decades of autocentric development that all but force most US residents to drive, even if they would prefer not to. In fact, the decline in car use among teenagers may not represent disinterest as much as unaffordability, which would carry grave implications for equity.