Photo by TheeErin
(This story was originally posted on MobilityLab.org)
I’ve been enjoying danah boyd’s book titled It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.
She is a researcher from Microsoft, New York University and Harvard who toured the country for the past several years interviewing teens about why they seem so addicted to social media and whether they are destroying their brains and their lives in the process.
Her findings are basically that the kids are alright and it’s probably the parents who are crazy.
RELATED: Majority of millennials want access to better transit optionsFrom boyd’s book, on page 90:
What does this have to do with alleviating traffic congestion by promoting better transportation options? Well, while the parents are aggrieved over their kids’ technological addictions, they are often pushing their children towards having virtual relationships due to their clamp down on the mobility freedoms most of us probably enjoyed in our own youth.
"From wealthy suburbs to small towns, teenagers reported that parental fear, lack of transportation options, and heavily structured lives restricted their ability to meet and hang out with their friends face to face. Even in urban environments, where public transportation presumably affords more freedom, teens talked about how their parents often forbade them from riding subways and buses out of fear. At home, teens grappled with lurking parents. The formal activities teens described were often so highly structured that they allowed little room for casual sociality. And even when parents gave teens some freedom, they found that their friends’ mobility was stifled by their parents."
Parental fear of letting kids have freedom to move around seems pretty irrational. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, violent crime against youth declined 77 percent from 1994 to 2010. In 1994 and before, we were all undoubtedly biking around town with our friends and swimming unsupervised at fishing holes that would unquestionably be off-limits today.
Teens have apparently been brainwashed. They do a lot of self-policing of their mobility as well, according to boyd:
Teens regularly echoed parental fears, also arguing that today’s world is much more unsafe than it previously was.
It doesn’t help that public spaces – almost as if they are actual people – can practically be seen frowning upon kids when they try to enter. Policymakers have enacted countless freedom-crushing curfews and loitering laws. My old McDonald’s parking lot in Edwardsville, Illinois – where I spent countless hours socializing as a teen – will never be the same. Businesses as well ban teens, some even going so far as to install sound technology that emits high-pitched sounds only young people can hear.
Independent travel on public transit is often forbidden by the parents of teens boyd interviewed. “Even in cities, many teens never ride public transit alone except to take a school bus to and from school,” she writes.
"In 1969, 48 percent of children in grades kindergarten through eighth grade walked or biked to school compared to 12 percent who were driven by a family member. By 2009, those numbers had reversed; 13 percent walked or bicycled while 45 percent were driven. In a safety-obsessed society, parents continue to drop off and pick up students well into high school.
[Along with implications for childhood obesity,] walking or biking to school historically provided unstructured time with friends and peers. Even when teens commuted alone, they often arrived early enough to get some time with friends before heading home. This is no longer the case in many of the schools I observed."
We have to remember that when you’re younger, you always want to be older. Kids see adults in places like bars, clubs, restaurants, and even public transit where they are not allowed. Somehow within that mix, we, as a society, have to do a better job of helping our children go through the coming-of-age process in ways that will create the local and global communities for them that we once had as kids ourselves.In case you missed it...
Read our previous blog, "8 Ways to Make Your Transit Maintenance Facility More Efficient."
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters, but also inspire budding artists. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.