Millennials are on the go, and they like plenty of options for getting around town. A recent study shows millennials care about transportation and, unlike in years past, they have a lot of options to choose from.
The study, commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association, looked at millennials in several cities — Boston, San Francisco, Austin, Boulder and Minneapolis for the first phase, and Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Washington for the second phase — who fit into the millennial age group of 18-34.
The idea was to understand the millennial mindset and trends when it comes to transportation. Here are a few of the researchers’ key findings:
Millennials are multimodal
The study found the bus was the most common form of public transportation millennials use, with 45 percent riding it to their destinations and citing environmental concerns as one reason.
“Our generation grew up knowing all about the effects on the environment that cars can have, so we've grown up with an attitude of wanting to do our part for the earth — something that we can easily do with public transit and not with cars,” said a participant.
The study also said “communities that attract millennials have a multitude of transportation choices, as proven by millennial hotspots, popular ZIP codes where residents have self-selected into a multimodal lifestyle.”
In fact, to reach one destination, millennials take an average of three modes of transportation, with 69 percent of respondents saying they use multiple modes on individual trips a few times every week.
Getting around town must be cheap and easy
Millennials want a multitude of transportation options, with 42 percent citing savings as a reason, and the same percentage saying short travel time or overall convenience is the reason.
“My generation is strapped financially,” said a study participant. “We’ve acquired 50-100k in student loan debt — it forces us to start our adult life in debt. … All this makes my generation need to be a bit more creative on how we get around town.”
That is why many millennials choose to walk or ride a bike.
“Most of my friends my age view bicycling as a viable option for transportation year-round,” wrote one study participant. “I've found that some of my older friends are more reluctant to embrace it. I see only growth for the use of bicycles — both owner-driven and bike-share — in this community.”
Additionally, over half consider the bus an affordable option, more so than any other form of public transportation.
Transportation should use technology
Almost half of those surveyed say they want optimized travel experiences that offer efficient routes and times, ways to take advantage of bike-share programs, ideal routes for enjoying good weather and the ability to stay 3G-connected throughout a trip.
“With smartphones and other mobile devices, we can now find the best ways of transportation,” according to a study participant. “This change in lifestyle and technology is what sets my generation apart from others.”
In fact, the study authors recommend companies expand the public transit experience to incorporate millennial interests.
“Create messaging and digital tools that play the role of a well-liked city bus driver: already an expert at navigating efficiently, but also able to offer personalized recommendations and interesting facts about the local area one would not have encountered on his or her own,” researchers write.
Locally, buses offer Wi-Fi, which means riders can take advantage of the technological options as well as the actual bus driver.
Millennials still have cars
More than half of survey respondents (60 percent) said they own a car, with another 16 percent saying they have access to one.
Additionally, contrary to popular thinking, the survey found people who live downtown are just as likely to own a car as not, with only a 2 percentage point difference between car owners and non-owners. That means, as the Associated Press points out, the fear in the auto industry that millennials don’t buy cars is unfounded.
“Millennials — especially the oldest ones — are these days buying cars in big numbers,” Dee-Ann Durbin wrote for the AP. “They just had a late start.”
Car owners may choose to park their car near a bus station, while non-owners may walk or bike to the station, and then hop right on.