What Millennials want, Millennials get – and transportation is no exception.
Who are Millenials and why do we care?
The Millennial Generation (or Millennials) refers to a demographic segment of the U.S. population born roughly between 1980 and 2000. Also known as “Generation Y” or “Echo Boomers” these individuals are the children of the post-WWII baby boomer generation, and represent the largest generation in U.S. History.
The sheer number of Millenials is staggering – population estimates range depending on the interpretation of the actual start and end dates of the generation, but regardless, it’s impressive. It is estimated that there are approximately 80 million Millennials in the United States, about 4% more than the Baby Boom generation. As we learned from the Boomers, any demographic group with numbers that large can significantly impact every aspect of our culture – politics, economy, and especially transportation policy and expenditures. And that is exactly what is happening. The very structure and use of transportation is changing based on the preferences and desires of this very influential segment of our population.
What do they want?
Without a doubt, Millennials are clear in expressing their preferences when it comes to transit,
Millennials want multi-modal transportation. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), “nearly 70 percent of Millennials use multiple ways of getting around a city or suburb”.
As the National Resource Defense Council points out in a recent blog post, “Millennials (those Americans who came into adulthood in the new century) want more access to public transportation and support local governments in expanding and improving public transportation options”.
Millennials no longer view cars as the first option for transportation. “The Driving Boom—a six decade-long period of steady increases in per-capita driving in the United States—is over” says Public Interest Research Group (PRIG). Fewer Millennials are getting their licenses. According to Tony Dutzik, senior policy analyst with Frontier Group, “In 2011, the percentage of 16-to-24 year olds with driver’s licenses dipped to another new low. Just over two-thirds of these young Americans (67 percent) were licensed to drive in 2011, based on the latest licensing data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and population estimates from the Census Bureau. That’s the lowest percentage since at least 1963.”
Millennials are driving fewer miles. In a recent press release U.S. PIRG reports that “[t]he Millennial generation is leading the change in transportation trends. 16 to 34-year-olds drove a whopping 23 percent fewer miles on average in 2009 than in 2001— the greatest decline in driving of any age group”. Car ownership is down in the Millennial age group. University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute results show that Boomers are far more likely to purchase new cars than their Echo Boomer children.
What does this mean for transportation?
Public transit ridership is up, bicycle sharing/rentals are up, ride sharing is up, as is the oldest form of transportation, walking (especially in urban areas). Millennials are shaping these trends. According to a recent APTA report Millennials and Mobility: Understanding the Millennial Mindset, this group is on the move, but doing so quite differently than previous generations. They say that:
“Millennials would like to see in the next ten years: 1) 61% more reliable systems, 2) 55% real-time updates, 3) 55% Wi-Fi or 3G/4G wherever they go, 4) 44% a more user-friendly and intuitive travel experience. Fully leveraging technology, through real-time transit applications that connect users with community amenities, through smartphone fare payment, and the provision of WiFi and 3G/4G, will allow transit users to be more spontaneous, thus addressing the key competitive advantage of the car.”
With so many Echo Boomers making different transportation choices than their Boomer parents, alternative methods of transit are becoming more important. And as more Echo Boomers take on leadership positions in our communities and government, their influence will steer where funds are allocated in support of these transit options.
What does this mean for the servicing of transportation equipment?
The increased interest in public transit places new and more exacting demands on the country’s existing yet frail public transit infrastructure. In their 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) tell us that “Americans who do have access [to public transit] have increased their ridership 9.1% in the past decade, and that trend is expected to continue. Although investment in transit has also increased, deficient and deteriorating transit systems cost the U.S. economy $90 billion in 2010, as many transit agencies are struggling to maintain aging and obsolete fleets and facilities amid an economic downturn that has reduced their funding, forcing service cuts and fare increases”. On a standard scholastic grading scale of A through F, the ASCE gave America’s transit system a D+.
This clear cut divide between growing expectations for our transit systems and the state of our current infrastructure reality is concerning. It puts tremendous strain on the service structures of the transit operations to keep the systems and people moving. With demand rising, transit service organizations will be called upon to reduce service operations expenses by focusing on a service lifecycle management model or by outsourcing maintenance and service all together thus transitioning the liability of performance to service vendors who are paid to ensure equipment uptime.
Transit service groups would be wise to consider restructuring service operations with the aim of reducing costs, streamlining parts management, and sharing service updates and information in order to optimize the maintenance process. Any effort toward simplifying the support of the complex transit equipment with parts and service information will go a long way toward meeting the growing expectations and demands of Millennials for dependable multi-modal transit.