"Americans have always loved their cars, but younger generations may be changing that. Millennials are driving less and taking public transportation more often, and they’re increasingly not even bothering to get a driver’s license.
Transportation experts say that it’s all part of a movement of people—and jobs—into cities, marking a distinct change from folks of previous generations, who needed their cars in the suburbs. And living in denser urban areas makes going without a car easier than ever.
“People are wanting to live lives in which they are less dependent on a car,” says Tony Dutzik, a senior policy analyst with the think tank Frontier Group. Dutzik’s research in a 2012 study shows that young people have been driving nearly a quarter fewer miles within the last decade than they did 20 years ago, and that they have increased their mileage on public transportation by 40 percent.
So where are the best cities for traveling without a car?
The experts we talked to cite large European cities like Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Copenhagen in Denmark as the models for car-free living. In the U.S., there are two categories of cities for carless travel. First, there are the larger, older U.S. cities like New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco, which feature compact downtown areas with strong networks of public transportation, and have multiple transit options within walking distance in a given neighborhood. Second are cities such as Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, Denver, and even Los Angeles, which have begun building or enhancing public transportation systems and bike lane networks in the last decade, offering strong alternatives to driving cars — and cutting down on traffic and pollution, too.