Instead of switching to more-efficient cars, what would happen if a large number of people simply gave up driving altogether?

That seems to be what many Millennials--the generation born between 1983 and 2000--are doing.

Without any apparent preference for cars, Millennials are the "multimodal generation," according to a new report from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

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Recent analysis indicates that new-car sales could soon peak, but Millennials are viewed as bucking a multi-generational trend in their perceived lack of interest in cars.

A 2013 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that about 54 percent of teenagers get driver's licenses by the time they turn 18--compared to around two-thirds of teens of teens two decades ago.

Honda Fit used in ZipCar's ONE>WAY car-sharing service

Honda Fit used in ZipCar's ONE>WAY car-sharing service

The AAA attributes some of the downturn to economic factors.

The still-sluggish economy affects Millennials more than most, and many are also saddled with large amounts of student-loan debt.

That makes buying and maintaining a car difficult.

For those living in urban areas, there are also more transportation options than there were in previous decades.

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In the Twin Cities--the focus of the Star Tribune report--new light-rail lines and bus rapid-transit services became available only during the past decade, along with comprehensive bike infrastructure.

There are also car-sharing services like Zipcar or Car2Go, and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft in many cities--providing a new alternative to traditional public transit.

Of course, rural and suburban areas don't have so many transportation options. Yet the report claims Millennials are generally more inclined to live in urban areas.

That trend would seem to upend the decades-long buildup of suburban infrastructure in the U.S., but only if it becomes a permanent aspect of this generation's lifestyle.

Minneapolis METRO light rail, by Flickr user Michael Hicks (Used under CC License)

Minneapolis METRO light rail, by Flickr user Michael Hicks (Used under CC License)

As a Millennial, this writer believes economic factors are the main reason behind the downtown in car ownership among young people--not a general disdain for cars themselves.

With a sluggish economy continuing to suppress job opportunities, owning a car is more difficult for young people now than in previous generations.

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The economic situation may also be why so many Millennials are moving to urban areas--where there are more jobs, as well as other young people.

Whether all of that will change once Millennials obtain a more stable lifestyle--and more spending money--is unclear.


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