Boston Millennials Care About Public Transit, Not Parking

New survey confirms what we’ve all thought: Boston millennials love to not drive.

Photo by Garrett Quinn

Photo by Garrett Quinn

A new survey from the Urban Land Institute Boston/New England and MassINC Polling reveals what many have suspected for quite some time: Boston millennials are far more interested in using public transportation than driving a car.

After surveying 660 “young professionals” in the Boston area, 80 percent said access to public transportation is “very important” when choosing a community or neighborhood in which to live. Walkability and ease of commute scored high, with “Being able to walk to amenities” being very important to 75 percent of respondents. The availability of on-street parking was low on the list of things young professionals look for, as only 25 percent said it was a very important factor in how they chose a community to live in.

Not only do millennials strongly prefer neighborhoods with easy access to public transportation, but 76 percent of them are very likely or somewhat likely to live in a “transit oriented development.”

How likely would you be to live in a “transit oriented development,” meaning a dense development of housing and retail and dining with minimal parking, located at or near a public transit station?

Very likely 42%
Somewhat likely 32%
Not very likely 15%
Not at all likely 10%
Don’t know <1%
No response 0%

Access to public transportation was the most important factor for local young professionals when determining satisfaction with their place of employment. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said it was very important that their workplace be located near public transit. All other possible features, such as accessibility to restaurants and nightlife and in-office amenities such as gyms placed far behind in the survey.

Adding to the theory of millennials as the car-averse generation is their disinterest in free or discounted parking at their place of employment. Just 30 percent of respondents said it was very important to them that their employer offer free or discounted parking. Nearly as many, 27 percent, said it was not at all important. More than 55 percent of respondents said it was very important to them that their employer offer free or discounted transit passes. Of course, in the end, a flexible work schedule won out, as the most important thing to millennials in Boston, with 68 percent saying it was very important.

Bicyclists may still make up a small percentage of commuters, but they appear to make up an outsized portion of millennial workers in Boston. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said bike lanes and bike paths are very important or somewhat important when choosing a neighborhood to live in. An almost identical amount, 58 percent, said it was very important or somewhat important to them that their place of employment include amenities for bicyclists such as parking and showers.

All of this should give planners and some of the city’s outspoken car-loving residents pause the next time they demand developers include extra parking in new developments. This survey shows that the next wave of long-term residents in Boston is far less likely to drive than past city residents. Millennials do not want more free parking for cars they do not use, they want better public transportation and more community-oriented walkable places. Planners and developers can answer these demands by building spaces with people in mind, not cars.

  • MarkinArl

    How can 59% of respondents consider bike lanes very important, yet only a few percent actually do bicycle? Oh, right! What people say and what they do are two very different things.

    • Lisa Weber

      Thank you for pointing this out

    • Kurt Hanson

      Mainly those are two different groups of people. It’s 59% of millennials, and the few percent of all commuters. Secondly, I bet not all people wanting bike lanes want to use them on their commute. Lots of people in Somerville, for example, work elsewhere, get there by T, and still want to bike to go out or see friends.

      • school data

        Somerville has one of the highest bike commuter rates in the country, 8% of total population I believe.

    • Jason Fossella

      my guess: many people who cannot currently bike would do so if better bike lanes were available. you can be the world’s most enthusiastic cyclist, but if there’s no lane, there’s no lane.

      • MarkinArl

        Enthusiastic cyclists I know are not deterred by lack of bike lanes.

        • CalRobert

          Given what it’s like to ride in the street, perhaps many of them are dead.

    • CalRobert

      That makes about as much sense as saying bridges aren’t important because nobody’s jumping their cars over a gorge.

    • Kenny Easwaran

      Some people appreciate when the city provides goods that other people use, and aren’t 100% focused on their own personal needs. (In addition to all the points about people caring about bike lanes either for the small fraction of the time that they do bike to work, or the large fraction of the time that they bike to places other than work, neither of which would be counted in the bike commute share.)

    • sd urban

      Many people want to ride more but are afraid to do so because of a lack of infrastructure; 53% of respondents here said just that:

      Over 100 million Americans bike every year – how is that a few percent? You’re probably referring to commute mode share, but work commutes make up less than 15% of all trips Americans take.

      • MarkinArl

        What people say and what they do are two very different things. Every New Year millions will lose weight, stop smoking, get in shape etc. Usually lasts a few weeks. At least going to a gym can be done year round, rain or shine.

        • school data

          Going to the gym does not replace your commute like biking does. If you bike to work you save all of that wasted idle time in a car and turn it into your free workout. Who has time to commute 45-60 mins by car then go to the gym? Many bike it year round, even more do it at least 8-9 months per year. Today was a spectacular day to bike to work, some intersections had more bikes at the red lights than cars.

    • Jay Batson

      Observation of reality does not back up your opinion. Case in point: The new Troy apartments in the Ink Block area of the South End. It’s 377 units in 2 towers, and so far, the buildings are highly (one might say totally) dominated by millennial tenants. The buildings are not yet full, but the bike rack rooms are chock full to overflowing, and busy. The buildings are across the Traveler’s St. bridge from the Broadway Red Line stop, and lots of tenants are walking there regularly. Car parking? Plenty of spaces available, and little traffic in/out. Observation of reality backs up this survey nicely.

      • MarkinArl

        OK, for your anecdote (in the words of our former governor), what is the average apartment rent, car parking spot rent, and bike parking spot rent?

  • MarkinArl

    Very biased story on weak survey data if anyone goes looking for the source. Can’t even find the raw data and questions. The bike lane question for example ranked equally with street parking, and the question might have been “Would you like X where you live?” for the various features. So, sure, lots of things are nice, so, why not? Doesn’t mean people will use them.

  • MarkinArl

    I suspect Millennial disinterest in having a car (loan) has much to do with being heavily burdened with student loans. Was that asked???

  • IrateinNH

    They did ask the millennials in Portsmouth NH who cannot live w/o parking.

  • KdNicewanger

    Wanting to live near mass transit and owning a car are not mutually exclusive. These are probably the people who store their car on the street and only move it once a week, for street cleaning.

    Since 2006, the city’s population has increased on 6%, yet the number of resident parking permits has increased 24%, wishful surveys notwithstanding.

    • G1991

      Interesting thought. I would qualify as a “Millennial” (I’m 24), but I live in the Sunbelt where suburban sprawl land use is the norm and a car to access some services and amenities is often necessary. As a result, many of my peers and I do own cars. However, I’ve noticed that we don’t use them that much. I’ve put fuel in my vehicle only twice in the past five months.

      I would be interested in studying, out of the GenYers that do own cars, how often do they use their vehicles and for what kinds of errands do they use them for (varying from “occasionally to get to the suburbs” to “regular commuting” with a metric to determine how many drive to the train/bus station for multi-modal journeys).

    • YellowRex

      Then start charging a reasonable price for those permits. A garage spot in Beacon Hill is available for $600,000. Zipcar pays the city $3,500 a year per space. Free permits just encourage people to store their rarely-used personal property on public space.

      If you use your car frequently, then convenient parking has enormously more value to you than it does to someone who uses their car less than once a week. Hence if you are both asked to pay $500 a year for your permit, one of you might reconsider whether it’s worth paying to store that car.

  • Timothy J. Sheehan

    This “survey” seems to lack any of the required scientific components for it to be taken as reliable. It seems more likely to be constructed to reinforce the authors preconceived notions and act as a crutch for his favored development designs.

    • blindeke

      dunno, seems better than most surveys. at least it was done by a real polling firm.

  • AL M

    This “millennials” stuff is nonsense. Why do we keep hearing it?

    The ‘study’s’ I’ve read state that the so called Millennials want a house in the suburbs.

  • bwf

    The roads in the Boston area are a free-for-all – we need a concerted effort to make it safe for everyone regardless whether they drive, walk, cycle or take the T. I do all methods for my commutes any given week and no matter which method it is always dangerous because so many people disregard rules of the road and are traveling at break neck speeds. Lets stop making our roads and walkways competitive scenes and work together to find solutions for everyone’s safety.