Next Generation

18 June 2014

Recently, various reports have been released that confirm the ever-widening gap between the Millennial generation and the preceding Baby Boomers.

Those born approximately between years 1980 and 2000, are more likely to prefer living in an urban area, and prefer public transit to car ownership. Dubbed Millennials, as they've reached their teens and 20s during the turn of the Millennium, the younger subset of the population is driving significantly less than previous generations.

It's not that Millennials are interested in having access to public transport, they want to abandon the road entirely. In April The Rockefeller Foundation and Transportation for America released a new survey that explores Millennials' perceptions and attitudes toward transportation. Almost half (46 per cent) of the surveyed vehicle owners "would seriously consider giving up their cars" if they could count on a range of transportation options, and a large majority say it is important for a city to offer opportunities to live and work without a car. The same survey found 54 per cent would consider moving if another city had more and better transit options.

Automakers say this is simply a matter of economics, and that once this generation pays back its student loans, car purchases will increase. However, new options for car-sharing and ride-sharing are popping up across the US, such as Uber and Lyft, and that's not to mention bike sharing programs popular in cities worldwide. These programs, which appeal to a generation addicted to smart phones, will certainly retain customers, even as disposable income rises.

While increasing demand for public transit is generally good news for the tunnelling industry, it's not without hurdles. With fewer drivers there is less revenue for funds like the gas tax. That 18.4 cents a gallon, which goes to the Federal Highway Trust Fund, subsidises highways, as well as mass transit.

It also takes less time and money to implement, say, a protected bike lane, than a light rail line, especially if there is an underground component. And a small tech firm can devise an app-based ride sharing service in a matter of months or even weeks. There is a generation of people welcoming a change in the transportation status quo, but it does not have the patience for errors.