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Leave This Car Behind

July 9, 2013



See this beauty?  It’s a 1998 Plymouth Neon.  I restored it myself.  Not really, I just got a new paint job.  It took me all over Atlanta three years ago and I was proud to rid myself of it when it failed to conquer Mt. Wilkinson in Cobb County and shot its radiator.  

So I got a request from a reader to comment on the recent AJC article that asks is young adults are dumping their vehicles for good.  Do I believe this trend is happening?


Absolutely NOT.


I have never been one to believe an article without visual statistics, but I honestly don’t even see it.  Prime example:  I’ve been to almost every transportation forum and planning meeting concerning new transit plans and how Atlanta plans to conquer its traffic issues and I see a sea of energized young people in the audience.  Afterwards, they all jump in their 4-door Subarus and drive off into the night. Did I miss something???  I am the only one waiting at the bus stop feeling like Gandhi waiting for my messiah to follow me to the promised land. But all I could expect was a sheepish, “Do you need a ride?” 

Yes, Millennials do wish for a world where transit was the mainstream and biking and walking around is “the thing” to do, but sadly when we live in a city your time is precious and where your transportation network is managed by the Dukes of Hazzard, a car seems smartest, right?  Millennials are just as stingy as their older counterparts when it comes to their vehicles.  Take it away or give them restrictions, and they wet their pants, cry and get into a tizzy.  Look at the first week the HOT lanes started charging people to cruise down the HOV lane.  

And no it is CERTAINLY NOT an economic thing, either.  I absolutely despise when someone uses the so-called “recession” or “the economy” as an excuse for not doing something, which the second moderator tried to pull out as a statistic for the decrease in vehicle miles traveled by Millennials.  No. Just…no. People in general will ALWAYS complain about how high gas will be.  But, you know what? They will keep pumping the tank with the petrol and drive along as if the world will never come to a stop.  Young people think that way as well.  Case in point: I know only one person, other than me, who lives life car-less, but has professed his vision to take MARTA, bike, walk, and influence others to do the same.  One. Not ten, but a mere soul. I need to hang out with Jessica and we can all take over this town.

Now, there’s a lot more reasons to why I do not believe that Millennials are getting rid of vehicles, but that’s for a video blog (coming soon on TheATLPlanner’s blogsite! Yay!).  Until I can see younger people instinctively ridding themselves of vehicles altogether, I would call that assumption that they are rubbish.  I love living without a car even though the world thinks I’m insane, but in the end, they’ll see I’m doing the world a favor.  To those who doesn’t think this is possible, just try it.  Don’t drive to the movies and maybe take a walk to the pub.  Baby steps are the key. This world is not going to alleviate traffic through policy or by force, but it depends on us.  We have to change ourselves.  

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2013 3:21 pm

    ATL is a tough city in which to be carless. I know, I did it for 10 years way back in the 80’s. Certainly it is better now, but still not great. This ain’t SF, Chicago or NYC, after all. If you haven’t already, get a copy of Jeff Speck’s book, Walkable City. You’ll get some ideas of where we can go from here and make this city easier to navigate sans automobile. Cars are still handy for some things, like traveling out of town, but that’s what ZipCar is for.
    Millennials who can afford to, move to places like NYC, and no, you sure don’t want a car there,

    FYI, I car-pool 1 (one) mile per day to Lindbergh Station, where I catch a train, and my wife catches a bus. If the weather is nice, I bicycle back home (12 miles) in the evening. I’m no millennial either.

    I do know a couple of planners who cycle everywhere. That’s encouraging. But when I attend the annual parks conference at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, It’s just me and one other non-millennial waiting for the bus at the end of the day. And the topic this year was the positive health impacts from parks, Go figure.

    The bottom line is this city has to become more walkable. Then cars will be come superfluous to more people. The BeltLine East Side Trail is a good start, and there is no faster way to get from Midtown to O4W/Highland Ave/Grant Park now. We need more solutions like that.

    • July 10, 2013 3:20 pm

      Thanks for you comment, Jeffrey! Sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job setting the tone for what should be done in this city! Keep up the good work!

  2. July 16, 2013 10:46 am

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  3. July 16, 2013 2:42 pm

    interesting article. i do agree that millenials value their time, because i too, am a millenial. i agree with baby steps, but i think it’s hard to walk to a pub after a movie if you know that your last bus leaves super early and you’ll have to be the 1st of your friends to leave for the night. this has happened to me many times because i also ride marta, but more than anything i am optimistic about where atlanta is going as far as transportation, mixed used development and tod goes. more and more people are realizing the value of living in a walkable, living, vibrant city. if we could only get a 24 hr transit system that would make it easier to go out and make atlanta have more of a night life, but like you said- baby steps. i guess i’ll take a cab

  4. August 10, 2013 12:50 pm

    I disagree. I do see this happening, at least here in (parts of) Cincinnati. I would say though that 90% of the young people who are really happily carless are cyclists much more than transit users. I don’t think I know of anyone yet beside myself who has proudly and defiantly mastered the transit system in preference to owning a car. The cyclists will use it, but generally only as a supplement to the bike. That IMO fits well with many people’s desire for self-reliance and rugged individualism–the freedom from schedules, other people, and even designated roadways and traffic laws.
    Rugged individualism tends to manifest itself in bicycles on the urban frontier for some reason. (I suppose that in the suburbs where everything is bigger, the self needs to be projected onto a bigger surface to stand out comparably. In the city where things are smaller and the public realm exists at a human scale, the self is projected primarily onto the body and the clothing. Even with a bicycle, the body is still the ultimate focus of attention and the tool for communicating about oneself. Perhaps this is why fashion is taken much more seriously in cities than in suburbs.)

    That’s the minority. Like you said, a larger part of the millenial population drives to public meetings if they’re even that engaged and bitches about how there isn’t rail everywhere. Not transit in general, but rail specifically. What those people want is less transportation, more lifestyle accessory though it’s tough to get anyone to admit to that. Perhaps they’re still stuck in that mode of needing to project the self from a bigger surface in order to feel dressed?

  5. Sarah G permalink
    May 15, 2015 2:27 pm

    I have never owned a car and I’ve never had a drivers license. I was born before the “millennials”. I moved to Phoenix for college back in the 1990s and got used to riding the bus and eventually light rail as well when they added it. About a year ago I moved to Atlanta and I’m getting used to MARTA, the bus system and where it does/doesn’t go.

    When I tell people I don’t drive or they see I don’t have a drivers license… it first boggles their mind… then they ask if its for environmental reasons… then I explain that when I went to college I couldn’t afford a car, insurance, maintenance, etc.. but I could afford a $40 monthly unlimited bus pass… and that was my transportation expense for the month.

    I think for some as gas prices continue to rise and rise and wages continue to lower and lower they’ll finally see the cost/benefits of using public transportation versus the ownership of a car.

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