Surveys: Millennials Don’t Want to Live in Car-Centric Cities Like Dallas

They want walkable living.

Granted, there are a goodly number of Millennials roaming the streets of our fair city. But a couple recent surveys, cited today on the Atlantic Cities, suggest that the cohort born between 1982 and 2001 want to live in walkable environments, not those crisscrossed every which way by expressways out of town.

Says one of the polls:

They found that 54 percent of Millennials surveyed would consider moving to another city if it had more or better options for getting around, and 66 percent said access to high quality transportation is one of the top three criteria they would weigh when deciding where to live. Nearly half of those who owned a car said they would consider giving it up if they could count on public transportation options. Up to 86 percent said it was important for their city to offer opportunities to live and work without relying on a car.

And the other, which had a respondent group half of which were Millennials and half of which were Baby Boomers:

That poll, conducted by Harris, found that 68 percent of respondents believe the U.S. economy is fundamentally flawed, and that the path to prosperity lies in building up local communities—not through recruiting companies but by concentrating on these same basic elements of desirable places to live.

Whether the community is a small town, suburban or urban location, 49 percent of respondents said they someday want to live in a walkable community, while only seven percent want to live where they have to drive to most places. Over three-quarters noted the importance of affordable and convenient transportation options other than cars in deciding where to live and work; nearly two-thirds said the so-called “shared” economy, meaning companies like Car2Go or Airbnb, was at least somewhat important to them.

There are reasons to be skeptical of these results. Atlantic Cities points out that one of the questions, for instance, is framed as whether the respondent would prefer “living in a suburb requiring driving to most places.” It seems logical that if it were asked instead as living in a place with “the freedom to drive to most places,” the results would be quite different. Plus, the survey respondents were already living in cities, which means there’s self-selection involved.

But what I find most interesting about these results is that notion that we’re not necessarily talking about a city vs. suburbs distinction. Even when Millennials and the Boomers are happy in the ‘burbs, they’re wanting those places to be walkable too.


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  • Ed Woodson

    Does the survey have a cross tab by location? (i.e. what DFW Millennials like?)

    • AeroRazavi

      The study may not have a cross-tab location for DFW Millenials, but if you want to see something yourself. Drive to Collin Creek Mall and after then go to Downtown Plano. Millenial or otherwise, where would you like to spend an afternoon at?

      Or for that matter go to Willow Bend and then drive up to Legacy Town Center.

  • David Hopkins

    Does Dallas have a “goodly number of Millennials” roaming the streets? I visit NYC and San Francisco, and all I see are people who get my Boy Meets World references. I’ve never thought of Dallas as a city rife with young people. Sure, I see young people, but it feels like the same 1,000 who are just very, very active. I’d be interested in some actual numbers on how many Millennials claim Dallas after they graduate from college. I may be wrong.

  • disney

    Of course young people want to live in the place the survey describes, which is either Manhattan or Disney World. Young people _always_ want to live in such a place. Then people grow up, and people realize that while walking to Starbucks is fun, walking for groceries or laundry is not fun at all. And so these planned communities can build a Towne Square or a Shoppes at Towne Centre, or whatever cutesy thing, but it’s nothing more than an outdoor mall, and you still have to drive to it. Look, urban places are great, but also horrible, just like suburbia.

    • Brett Moore

      Not to mention that they can’t AFFORD to live in Manhattan or Disney World. Density is expensive, and I would imagine that cost of living is part of what makes our gigantic, unwalkable megalith attractive.

    • Wylie H Dallas

      Exactly…. that’s why young people hate New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin, Toronto, etc., so much. Because they can’t drive from their residence to the laundry and supermarket in a private vehicle with dedicated parking at both the origination and destination. Urban places suck.

    • vseslav botkin

      It’s sort of crazy, and maybe indicative of what Dallas reformers are up against, that a lot of people think everyday, live-able density=Manhattan. Or something like it. My neighborhood is dense, urban, and has an 88 on Walkscore, but there isn’t a single building taller than six stories nearby.

  • David Hopkins

    Good to know. Welcome, younglings, to our fair city!

  • Ted

    I’m pretty confident Millennials prefer living where they can find employment.

  • TheSlowPath

    It’s the other way around. Density is the result of high demand for an area and suppliers trying to maximize land use in proximity. Housing costs also go up when the demand outstrips the supply.

    One of the reasons SF is so expensive now is that it’s hugely popular, but there is huge push-back against density, so the supply remains artificially low, thus jacking up prices.

    In the DFW area, TxDOT built super-highways to the north, making a huge supply of land available (but still within daily distance of the two reasons to live in the area: Dallas and Fort Worth downtowns). They basically did the opposite of San Francisco, artificially inflating the supply. This gutted downtown because the price for the suburbs and the exurbs was so low.

    Market driven cities are roughly conical in shape, with the density (and building height) high in the center and falling as one moves further out. The DFW area was flattened and distributed, because the highways made (or nearly did) every place equally cheap and heterogeneous.

  • Ted

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet, I don’t think, is the heat island effect of urban density, such that in Dallas’ typical icepocalyptic winters, the poor souls marooned out in the suburbs are freezing their butts off and paying more to heat their homes while the residents of the high density, heat-retaining core remain toasty warm and actually have their personal comfort subsidized by the collective heat of the dense inner city itself. Civilization produces heat, and denser civilizations produce denser heat.

    Like the lucky termites in a similarly heat-dense termite mound.

    • vseslav botkin

      The heat island effect only really works when you don’t want it: in summer. This is why white rooftops are more energy efficient than dark ones. The heat retained in winter when warming from the sun is at its weakest pales in comparison to the cost of unwanted heat retained in summer.

  • AmyS

    Count my son and a group of his friends as those who are trending. They’ve all returned, post college, to their Dallas, the one they envision (which ironically is not so different than the one I moved to in 1983) much closer to downtown and with Uber as their backup.Happy that we live in a city that the young want to live in.

  • Ted

    Huh. But, really, what North Texas resident would have imagined that?

    Now you’re making me question New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin, Toronto, etc. as models for a denser Dallas.

  • queuno

    Millennials don’t have kids. Come back and ask them when they’ve got kids and are living in the suburbs.