The largest generation in U.S. history and the most multi-modal could be a game changer for public transportation and America's transportation network as a whole. The millennial generation chooses the most practical transportation mode (driving, public transit, biking or walking) for each trip, and this flexible concept of mobility is spreading. According to the study "Millennials and Mobility", nearly 70 percent of millennials, people 18 to 34, use multiple travel options several times or more per week.
The study, which was released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), shows that while car-sharing, bike-sharing, walking and car ownership will all play a part in the multi-modal network, public transportation is ranked highest as the best mode to connect to all other modes, according to 54 percent of millennials polled. APTA officials note that the recent trend of smartphone applications allow public transit users to be increasingly spontaneous and flexible with their travel decisions. This is a game changing element because it closes the gap with the perceived benefit of auto use.
"Public transportation is the backbone of a multi-modal transportation system because it provides the opportunity to multi-task and socialize online while traveling," said Peter Varga, APTA chair and general manager for The Rapid in Grand Rapids, Mich. "This study shows that millennials are leading a trend of Americans who are returning to walkable cities and suburbs with multiple transportation options that include vibrant public transportation. This data is proof positive that America's future is riding on public transportation."
According to the study, the top five reasons and motivations for choosing public transportation are pragmatic, as 46 percent state that a need to save money drives their choices, 46 percent note convenience, 44 percent want exercise and 35 percent say they live in a community where it just makes more sense to use public transportation.
"Now is the time to be pro-active in creating this multi-modal transportation system to address the millennial generation's demands and lifestyles," said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. "This generation wants the pragmatic benefits of having multiple ways to get around. The solution is investment in a long-term transportation bill that includes strong investments in a variety of modes including public transportation."
Millennials say the key advantages of public transportation is the ability to pay-per-use (58 percent), protecting the environment (50 percent), the ability to socialize online (44 percent), and creating community (44 percent).
Because of the future demands of this millennial generation, transportation systems and public transportation systems in particular, will be built around the smart phone. APTA anticipates adoption of features such as: smart phone charging stations on vehicles and facilities; fare collection via smart phone; Wi-Fi, 4G and 3G access; apps that connect public transit access to local amenities; and seamless multimodal connections such as bike and care share options and improved pedestrian access to public transit stations.
"It is great news that millennials would like to expand on what the public transit experience can and should be," said Varga. "As an industry, we should encourage the creation of digital tools that play the role of a well-liked city bus driver –someone who is an expert at navigating an area, and can also offer personalized recommendations and interesting facts about the local area."