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June 13, 2012

Courting the next generation of transit riders

by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

What had been a rite of passage for young people — getting a driver’s license — isn’t as high a priority as it once was. According to a recent study by the Frontier Group and the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, the percentage of people between the ages of 20 and 34 without a license increased more than 5% (from 10.4% to 15.7%) from 2000 to 2010.

And, as the number of license-less people rose, the idea of living in an area with access to public transportation grew for people within that age range. A 2011 survey by the Urban Land institute found that those in between the ages of 18 and 29 were “at least 25% more likely than older populations to highly value having bus routes and rail lines within walking distance of their homes.”  

Younger people are heading to urban areas where they can easily hop on a bus, train or trolley. In Philadelphia, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ 2012 update to last year’s “State of the City” study found that from 2000-2010, the number of people between the ages of 20 to 34 living in the city increased by 50,300 people over the previous decade.

Some members of “Generation Y” moving to Philadelphia from the suburbs for school and work may have never taken public transportation. This spring, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) began courting this next generation of riders. Focus groups that SEPTA conducted with individuals in the coveted 18 to 34 age range identified topics such as safety, cleanliness, ease of use and affordability as issues that most concern younger customers. But instead of SEPTA telling potential customers why they should ride, the agency let their peers do the talking.

In the “I SEPTA Philly” campaign’s commercials, current riders between the ages of 18 to 34 talk unscripted about using the system and the issues raised in the focus groups. The accompanying iseptaphilly.com website, Internet and radio advertising, and social media initiatives are geared to make younger, new riders feel more comfortable with using SEPTA. The idea is to make SEPTA a verb in the Generation Y vocabulary — “I SEPTA to the restaurant”; “I SEPTA to the ballpark”; “I SEPTA to the concert.”
 
The agency is also asking riders to populate the campaign’s website themselves by submitting their own public transit stories — experiences riding the system, anecdotes about public transportation or tips for new riders. Customers can film and upload their own clips or record one at a variety of events held throughout Philadelphia over the summer. The best submissions will be entered in a contest to win prizes ranging from SEPTA passes and concert tickets to a trip to Las Vegas.

Customers always have SEPTA stories and feedback to share, whether it be a positive experience, constructive criticism or an idea on how to make the system easier to navigate. The iseptaphilly.com website and the contest provide riders with a new platform for telling others about SEPTA and public transit — a platform that is built for the next generation.

Heather Redfern

Public Information Manager, SEPTA


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  • William Hamilton[ June 13th, 2012 @ 10:33am ]

    Main stream media doesn't really reach this group. Online activity is important, but you also have to get out there on the sidewalk. Educational institutions and places where younger people are likely to be found are important. It is hard and slow. Online trip planning on portable devices is a key access point for this generation. The current controversy of OS6 and Apple illustrates this. http://busec.org/rotten-apples-fall-off-the-transit-tree/

  • Driving Instructor Gloria Bradley[ June 14th, 2012 @ 2:48pm ]

    Good article - I think the reason could be because of high gas prices. I teach drivers education in three Los Angeles High Schools and teens can't wait to get their driver license. And we have a lot of public transportation.

  • Ray Krueger[ June 26th, 2012 @ 12:24pm ]

    I'm not surprised at the declining urge to drive in this demographic due to their apparent obsession to text on their cell phones, or to always be connected to someone. Steering can be a real distraction for them.

  • Jackie[ July 27th, 2012 @ 8:07pm ]

    When I look back on the 30 years that SLU lay fallow, and how much more arrtoppiape it would have been to develop that area instead outlying areas, I certainly wonder about a process that directs public money for transit to developing the Bel-Red corridor and leaves it up to millionaires (or not) who can form LIDs to develop transit in Seattle.I have a feeling we'll be paying for that half century of cheap gas in more ways than one for many years to come.Well, what's done is done, and soon the Center for Wooden Boats will be joined by a park and museum at the south end of the lake. Quite a change from the dark days of the early 70s, but we shoulda kept the submarine

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Author Bio

Heather Redfern

Public Information Manager, SEPTA


Marcia Ferranto

President/CEO, WTS International

Marcia Ferranto is President/CEO of WTS International.


Scott Belcher

President and CEO, Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America)


Joe Zavisca

Joe Zavisca is an independent consultant specializing in paratransit service.


Paul Mackie

Communications Director, Mobility Lab

Paul Mackie is communications director at Mobility Lab, a leading U.S. voice of “transportation demand management.”


Rob Taylo

Founder/CEO SinglePoint Communications

Rob Taylo is founder/CEO of SinglePoint Communications, an exclusive U.S. distributor of WiFi in Motion.


Joel Volinski

Director, National Center for Transit Research at CUTR/USF


Zack Shubkagel

Partner/Creative Director of Willoughby Design

Zack Shubkagel is partner and creative director for the San Francisco office of Willoughby Design, a strategic branding and design firm.


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