Research commissioned by the NZ Transport Agency confirms that members of generation Y use public transport more than their elders – and would use it even more if the service was improved.
The first finding, of generally greater Gen Y use, appears to be international. The transport agency got a team from Opus International Consultants Ltd to carry out research last year to put some figures on the theory and find reasons.
The study, Public transport and the next generation (NZTA research report 569), by Grace Rive, Jared Thomas, Courtney Jones, Bill Frith & Jo Chang of Opus Central Laboratories in Lower Hutt, suggests large, sustained growth in public transport use will occur but, to realise this underlying demand & growth, lead investment is needed.
The Gen Y is defined as aged 15-35 in 2014, or born in the period 1979-99.
One interpretation of the high latent demand for public transport among both Gen Y & older travellers is that they recognise current investment strategies are making public transport a more viable option.
Focusing on Gen Y, the research team found:
- For their main trips, Gen Y travellers’ use of public transport would rise from 35.3% of travel to 48.7% in the next 5 years, even if no improvements were introduced, and could rise to 53.7% if improvements were introduced
- Latent demand for walking & cycling was even higher
- A baseline 18.6% public transport use for other trips, such as for recreation, would rise to 42.6% without improvements and 48.8% with improvements
- 90% anticipated that their travel patterns would change in the next 5 years (in the older group it was 50%)
- Specific life stages that could be targeted for positive travel interventions included moving location, where there is an opportunity for growth, and starting a family, where there might be an opportunity for greater retention of public transport use than typically observed
- Any improvements aimed at this subgroup are likely to have flow-on positive effects for everybody else
- Pricing mechanisms around transfers & improved information (both real-time travel information & general information access through a Wifi service) would increase Gen Y public transport use.
The researchers said the current transport priority list didn’t take cost:benefit analysis of the intervention areas into account. They recommended that the leading improvement should be aimed at the top priorities of both Gen Y & older travellers, which would have the largest impact on ridership rates.
They said Gen Y wants smarter ticketing options which reward regular users and create the feeling of receiving a ‘win’. “This is particularly important in mitigating any inconvenience, for example fares for services that run late being refunded or partially refunded. Similarly, smart interventions such as free public transport use for secondary/tertiary students, free bonus trips to reward frequent users, or promotions to encourage recreational or social trips should also be reviewed for implementation.”
There was evidence that the novelty of family public transport was an enjoyable experience, so introducing family concession tickets, particularly for weekend or recreational trips, could therefore be a successful strategy to retain public transport use among new parents and ensure familiarity & exposure for children.
Nathan Norris, writing on the PlaceMakers blogsite 3 years ago, noted that several speakers at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in the US, shortly before he produced his column, made it clear a radical shift in preferences was on the horizon.
He also noted that Yale economics professor Robert Shiller, creator of the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index, said the growing shift to renting & city living could mean suburban home prices might “never rebound in our lifetime”.
Professor Shiller wasn’t talking about Auckland with cbd fringe development constraints, inadequate supply elsewhere and still not a large supply of inner-city housing, but projected apartment development is above 5000 units in the short term.
Links: Public transport and the next generation
PlaceMakers, 12 April 2012: Why generation Y is causing the great migration of the 21st century
Attribution: Research paper.