Is the urbanisation of young adults reducing their driving?

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In recent decades, in many developed countries, licence-holding, car ownership and driving, amongst young adults have declined. One of the explanations advanced for these declines is the urbanisation of young adults, their growing concentration in the denser areas of larger cities. This study analyses the changing spatial patterns and travel behaviour of young adults over time using a complete national dataset for England between 2001 and 2011. It uses a fractional response model to analyse the changing relationship between the proportion of young adults driving to work, and using public transport to get to work, and population density and settlement size. It finds that urbanisation contributed to less driving and more public transport use amongst young adults aged 16–34. These changes followed a change in national planning policy which encouraged higher density development in urban areas. These policies caused a re-urbanisation of the population as a whole, with the strongest trends amongst young adults. The re-urbanisation of the population was accompanied by a widening of the differentials in travel behaviour between those in the densest areas and the largest settlements (who drove less) and the rest. These findings cast new light on the controversy over ‘residential self-selection’. They suggest that a change in planning policy probably caused a modest national fall in driving. Residential self-selection, which is often considered a barrier to such policies, facilitated those outcomes.




Melia, S., Chatterjee, K., & Stokes, G. (2018). Is the urbanisation of young adults reducing their driving? Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 118, 444–456.

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