APTA Chair Peter Varga joined a panel reporting on the ways public transportation must change to gain and keep the support of the Millennial generation—roughly, those born between 1982-2003—at an Oct. 1 session during the APTA Annual Meeting.
Varga, who moderated the session, emphasized the importance of Millennials as public transit customers and employees as a priority of his term. He referenced a new APTA report on the topic, Millennials & Mobility: Understanding the Millennial Mindset, which blends in-depth interviews and quantitative surveys to examine the transportation habits of this group—the main one being its ease in using different modes for varying purposes. (See related story.)
Millennials may make a conscious choice to drive or own a car, Varga explained, considering the environmental and economic impact of that decision as one of several options. On the other hand, increasingly walkable communities and widely available Wi-Fi allow them to get where they need to go on foot, by bicycle, or with public transit. He pointed out that Millennials are comfortable with communications technologies such as texting and smart phone use and have learned to cope with a constrained economy.
Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst and program director for tax and budget policy, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), cited his organization’s new report, A New Way to Go, which focuses on the role of transportation apps and vehicle sharing (both cars and bikes) in helping ease daily travel patterns.
“If a person buys a car, that means a commitment to driving,” Baxandall said. “Technologically enabled services such as on-board Wi-Fi can change travel behaviors. If people drive less and take transit more, they can stay connected safely and use their commute time more productively.”
Michael Connelly, vice president, planning, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), noted that Millennials are the largest and fastest-growing segment of the agency’s ridership, comprising more than one third of the total. “Members of this generation are choosing to make themselves transit-dependent,” he said.
He pointed out that many CTA stations have expanded the definition of “multimodal hub” by incorporating car-sharing and bike-sharing stations, as well as building secure, covered parking for privately owned bicycles.
Janet Kavinoky, executive director, transportation and infrastructure, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, provided a business perspective on the impact of Millennials on society. “The public must understand the importance of public transit to the economy,” she said. “More and more, businesses locate where transportation serves people.”
She continued: “Businesses are looking for ways to achieve better productivity through improved mobility. Their basic issues are whether employees have the travel options they need, if these options provide for future growth, and if they offer a good quality of service.”