The role of residential choice on the travel behavior of young adults

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, planning - surveys, ridership - behaviour, ridership - modelling, ridership - mode choice, ridership - young people


Young adults, Travel behavior, Residential location choice, Vehicle ownership, Mode choice, Person miles traveled


Several studies have shown that the travel behavior of young adults in the United States in the past two decades differed from that of prior generations. On average, recent young adults drove fewer miles, owned fewer vehicles and made use of public transit more often. A higher share of young adults also chose to live in cities. This study examines the relationship between the location decision of young adults and their travel behavior. We examine how being a young adult and other socioeconomic variables are associated with residential location decisions, and how these in turn affect vehicle ownership, mode choice and travel distance. Our analysis uses household travel survey data from the Seattle regions collected in 2006 and 2017 and employs a recursive structural equation model to examine these questions. We find that young adult households were more likely to live closer to the city center and to have fewer vehicles than older ones. Fewer young adults also chose to own vehicles in 2017 than in 2006. While young adults made more use of non-automobile modes and had fewer person miles traveled, we find that these effects were more due to their residential location and vehicle ownership decisions than due to direct preferences about mode or distance traveled. These findings suggest that significant changes would be expected in the mode use and miles traveled among young adults if their residential location or vehicle ownership preferences change significantly due to life cycle or other factors.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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