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Puget Sound millennials own cars—and drive them regularly

Contrary to reputation, millennials are still behind the wheel

Cars travel in both directions on the Alaskan Way Viaduct in a photo taken from the north. Both CenturyLink and Safeco Fields are visible in the background. Victoria Ditkovsky/Shutterstock

A recent survey by sustainability nonprofit Forterra found that Puget Sound millennials want their cities dense, accepting, and green. But it came with a surprise: Those same millennials love their cars.

The vast majority of Puget Sound millennials, defined in this study as people between the ages of 20 and 35, own cars, and it’s about the same for both newcomers (79 percent) and those from the area (78 percent).

It’s not just about getting that outdoor-adventuring Outback: 59 percent drive as their primary mode of transportation. That’s less than the broader population, but only by about 5 percent.

Millennials carpool and ride public transit a little more than the general population, too—32 percent compared to 23 percent.

That result runs counter to the reputation is that millennials don’t buy cars and, in some cases, don’t even get their driver’s licenses. (On that note, 95 percent of survey respondents are licensed to drive.)

A little half of respondents could see giving up their car as a primary form of transportation—49 percent of newcomers and 42 percent of those from Puget Sound.

But commuting without a car seems more feasible in dense, urban areas with access to transit. 61 percent of Seattleites could see giving up their wheels. That falls 40 percent for all of King County.

42 percent surveyed in Pierce County, which includes Tacoma, could see giving up their car. That number drops to just 24 percent in Snohomish County.

In a supplemental web survey, newcomers to the area are even more willing to give up their cars as their main form of transportation, at 69 percent.

While a millennial behind the wheel doesn’t fit the popularized stereotype of the transit-savvy, Uber-riding agent of the war on cars, Forterra’s survey is right in line with recent data. A March 2016 report found that millennials share in the new car market is 28 percent, up from 17 percent in 2010.