I am working on our annual Consultant Roundtable for the July issue. One interesting point that has been brought up by many in the industry is the optimism that ridership will continue to grow as baby boomers exit the workforce and are replaced by the younger generation who are more used to utilizing public transportation.
Recently, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor conducted a study on the driving habits of 16 to 39 year olds. The study found that the number of 17-year-olds that had a driver’s license dropped significantly over a period of 25 years, from 69% in 1983 to 50% in 2008. Meanwhile, American aged 20 to 24 saw a drop as well, from 92% in 1983 to 82% in 2008.
Further research conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) found that “Generation Y,” which refers to the generation aged 16 to 34, is driving less. According to the data, primarily culled from Census Bureau and other federal agency findings, between 2001 and 2009 the number of miles young people drove dropped from 10,300 on average to 7,900.
Conclusions drawn from the U.S. PIRG study are that young adults are driving less because of the increased cost of driving and a greater interest in environmental stewardship and personal fitness.
This is all good news for the public transportation industry. For years, the struggle for many agencies is making public transit a preferable option, rather than a last resort. Now, with many from Generation Y entering the workforce, the question seems to be are public transportation agencies prepared to handle and maintain the growth?
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "Rural transit getting a closer look," here.