Millennials love San Diego – at least, they think they do.

Two new surveys reveal a possible disconnect between what people aged 18-34 want and what San Diego has to offer. San Diego ranked high among most mentioned destinations where they want to live, but it’s lacking a lot of key elements they count as priorities: public transportation, car- and bike-shares and pedestrian-friendly streets.

A survey conducted by The Rockefeller Foundation and Transportation for America found 54 percent of millennials surveyed in 10 major U.S. cities said they would consider moving to a different city if it had better transportation options. Sixty-six percent counted that access as one of their top three criteria in picking a place to live, and a whopping 91 percent said they think investing in decent public transit is key to creating jobs and boosting the economy.

Meanwhile, the American Planning Association polled a mixed group of more than 1,000 respondents — half-millennials, half-baby boomers. Fifty-six percent of millennials said they wanted to live someday in a walkable community — urban, suburban or small-town. Fifty-nine percent said there weren’t enough transportation alternatives where they live.

That’s a lot of matchmaking data on how to woo this generation. Apparently we don’t need the help, but will San Diego live up to their expectations? Let’s check in.

Public Transportation

• Extending the Mid-Coast trolley line to connect Old Town to UTC has prompted an especially passionate battle from Clairemont and Bay Park residents. Building up density around the new stops would theoretically improve access for people who move into the newly constructed housing. But it would also mean bumping up the height limit from 30 feet to 60 feet. And Clairemontians aren’t taking that lying down.

• The Mid-City Rapid bus transit line was supposed to be a faster, cheaper choice. But SANDAG backed off the ambitious plan, deciding not to offer dedicated lanes throughout. That means the line itself won’t actually be much faster than the standard buses we have now.

• Instead, SANDAG wants to focus on developing its four light rail lines, part of the association’s long-term transit plan – which lost a legal challenge and is now under appeal.


• San Diego is taking its sweet time catching up to cities like Boston, Denver and Indianapolis, all of which have bike-share programs in place. The City Council had already approved a 10-year partnership with DecoBike for about 200 stations around the city, and it looked like things would get rolling between January and March this year. That didn’t happen, and KPBS reported the roll-out here at home has been delayed yet again.

• The city had projected a profit from the bike-share program between $1 million and $2.6 million – but that was if it had launched in March. We might’ve taken a financial hit as a result of the delay.

• According to WalkScore, the city of San Diego is “somewhat bikable,” with minimal infrastructure. Check out the site’s heat map of where a person could feasibly, safely ride their bike in our region. Efforts to boost that infrastructure, most recently in Uptown, have fired up another controversy among urban planners, business owners and bike advocates.


• Being the 19th most walkable major city is an iffy honor. Walk San Diego ranked the most pedestrian-friendly communities late last year, giving La Mesa the top spot for our 18 cities. The city of San Diego earned a middle-of-the-pack ninth place by the group’s tally.

• WalkScore also pointed out we’re still considered a car-dependent community. Car-share options abound, including Zipcar, Car2Go, Lyft and RelayRides.

Catherine Green

Catherine Green was formerly the deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handled daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.

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