Young adults want walkable, transit-accessible neighborhoods, say Realtors

By Chris McCahill

The National Association of Realtors, in collaboration with researchers from Portland State University, just released the results of their 2015 Community Preference Survey. The survey reinforces other reports that younger generations are driving less and prefer communities with multimodal transportation options.

This new survey suggests that people from all age groups care more about access to transportation options than they did a decade ago. The number of people who indicated that access to highways is important increased from 75 percent in 2004 to 82 percent now. Other modes, however, have grown even more important. Sidewalks and places to walk increased in importance from 72 to 85 percent, while access to transit increased from 46 to 64 percent. One-quarter of respondents live in detached homes, but would prefer living in an apartment/townhouse in a walkable neighborhood.

Despite a recent uptick in driving across the U.S., interest in driving seems to be waning, according to the survey.

Younger age groups, in particular, show less interest in driving than other groups and more interest in biking and transit. Only 71 percent of Millennials (age 18-34) like to drive, compared to 77 percent of Generation X, 80 percent of Baby Boomers, and 83 percent of the Silent Generation. 44 percent of Millennials like taking transit compared to 41, 34, and 30 percent, respectively. Millennials and Generation X prefer biking more than other groups, but all groups like walking. Health issues prevent older generations from walking more than younger groups, but two-thirds of all groups say destinations are too far.

The survey also asked respondents about transportation spending. The top priority for all age groups is maintaining existing infrastructure, although somewhat less so for Millennials. Millennials place higher priority than other generations on building communities that support short trips and investing in transit, biking, and walking. Millennials also prioritize alternatives to driving slightly more than road capacity expansions and congestion relief. When asked how to replace shrinking gas tax revenues, 28 percent of all respondents said not to replace it—a choice that was selected more than any other alternative.

Chris McCahill is a Senior Associate at SSTI.