Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Kansas is getting younger, transportation implications

With millennials making up about 28 percent of its population, Kansas ranks ninth in the nation for youngest median age according a recent report by Governing.com.  D.C. takes the top spot followed by Utah, Alaska, North Dakota, and Texas.

Now at 80-million strong in the U.S., millennials are the largest generation in American history.  (The report defines millennials as those born from 1981 to 2000.)

As more members of this generation become eligible to vote, this could lead to shifts in public policy especially when it comes to transportation as millennials value cars less and public transit more than previous generations.

“The Driving Booma six-decade-long period of steady increases in per-capita driving in the United Statesis over,” claimed last year’s report from PIRG and the Frontier Group, a study that effusively championed such an outcome and that advocated a number of policy moves intended to hasten it. Millennialstoday’s older teenagers and twenty-somethingsare, said the study, which spurred widespread press coverage, “demonstrating significantly different lifestyle and transportation preferences than older generations.”

There have been a number of studies regarding the traveling habits of millennials, here are some of the key findings:
  • From 2007 to 2011, the number of cars purchased by people aged 18 to 34 fell almost 30 percent, and according to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.  
  •  In 2011, the percentage of 16-24 year olds who had driver's licenses fell to its lowest percentage since 1963 at 67 percent, according to the Public Interest Research Group.
  • In survey conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation and Transportation for America 54 percent of millennials said they would consider moving to another city if it had more and better options for getting around, and 66 percent said that access to high-quality transportation would be one of their top three priorities when considering a move. 
Some contend that the drop in car ownership among young people is a product of the economic recession.

“Youth are making choices about their travel that are being influenced by the constraints of their personal income,” said a report published last year by the Federal Highway Administration.

However, others argue that it may be a cultural shift spurred on by technology.   While previous generations viewed cars as a symbol of freedom and independence from their parents, millennials can get their freedom through smartphones.  And that technology can offers options that lessen the need to own a car.  It facilitates car-sharing services; it tells you the quickest way to bike between two places; it gives you real-time information about when your subway or bus will arrive; and, because it lets you get work done almost anywhere, it makes time riding public transit inherently more productive than time spent behind the wheel.

Most experts agree it's still too early to tell whether millennials will lead the way in a transportation revolution.

Do you think the trend to rely less on cars and more public transit is here to stay?

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