Time was, not having a car meant you were a loser (see TLC’s 1999 hit "No Scrubs"). But the idea of the car as a requisite accessory of normal, successful life might be changing.
Zipcar, the membership-based car-sharing company, recently released the results of a study it commissioned on Americans’ attitudes toward driving and transportation.
The study found that the so-called Millennials, those now 18 to 34 years old, are really not that enamored of driving. Fifty-five percent of Millennials agreed with the statement "I have consciously made an effort to reduce how much I drive, and instead take public transportation, bike/walk or carpool when possible." That’s up from 45% last year. They cited the cost of car ownership, environmental concerns, and the ease of connecting with friends online as reasons for reducing their driving.
Moreover, 70%of Millennials said they would drive less than they do now if they had an alternative, such as public transportation, car sharing, or carpooling. And 53% said they were "likely" to participate in a car-sharing program. Both of those percentages were higher than in any other age group.
In a press release, Zipcar happily concludes that this points to "strong adoption of car sharing as a mainstream transportation solution for this influential segment of the population." That might be overstating the case. Car sharing is not the only alternative to car ownership.
But at the least, this survey does suggest that Millennials are actively looking for alternatives. And that’s good news. The paradigm of everybody owning his or her own car—the vast majority of which sit idle for the vast majority of the day—is a mind-boggling waste of money, space, and materials.