When planning for the future we tend to do so by looking at past trends and extrapolating that forward. The somewhat scary thought is that it tends to mean there is an assumption that you will behave exactly the same way your parents did. Yet when I think of my generation (Generation Y – 1979-1999) the political, social, technological and economic conditions are considerably different to those my parents experienced.

For some time now New Zealand and many other western countries have experienced a significant change in transport. For around 50 years the amount of driving we do as a society increased fairly constantly. However that all changed in the mid 2000’s when vehicle volumes suddenly plateaued or even fell. Internationally a lot of work has already pointed to younger generations behaving differently – moving back to more urban areas resulting in driving less while using PT and active modes more.

We’ve now started to see local institutions examine this trend. At the end of last year the Ministry of Transport released a study looking at future transport demand and found that since the mid 2000’s our transport models have been woefully wrong and that out of four possible future scenarios, only one would see vehicle kilometres increase. Now the NZTA has joined in with a research report looking at how Generation Y travels and what the future holds. The study was undertaken by OPUS Research.

Hours travelled by week and age
Almost all age groups are spending less time travelling but it is most prominent for Generation Y

The report highlights that those in Generation Y tend to use PT more than those in older generations and are expected to continue doing so in the future highlighting that his isn’t just some blip or life stage but that there are generational changes occurring. In other words we are behaving quite differently to our parents, just like they behaved differently to their parents. However the report also finds there is not just a lot of latent demand for PT from Generation Y but from older generations too. This shows that PT investment means it is starting to be seen as a more viable option by all age groups and that more investment could tap into this demand.

The chart below sets out just how much change is possible and in some cases use of PT could more than double over the next 5 years.

Change in PT use

Those surveyed also expressed a desire travel more by bike or by walking in the coming years which should tie in well with the planned investments the council and NZTA are making.

The report also looked at what improvements respondents thought would make the biggest change to their travel behaviour. Of those who said their behaviour would change the top reasons were fairly similar between Generation Y and older age groups. The top 10 priorities for the two groups are shown in the table below and as I would expect the key measures are frequency, coverage, reliability/speed and the fare/ticketing system. The bottom five results are also interesting, for example Generation Y rank WiFi on services highly but not WiFi at stations or stops, presumably that’s because they’re not expecting to be at stops for a long period of time.

NZTA Gen Y research - PT Priorities

I guess for Auckland at least, the good thing is that these are the areas that Auckland Transport are currently focused on with the roll out of the new network and supporting bus lanes plus integrated fares.

The report also breaks this down by different region presenting interesting comparisons, for example in Wellington Integrated Ticketing is in the top two for the two groups while in Auckland it is 7th or 8th which will reflect the fact that Auckland already has integrated ticketing rolled out.

The report makes a number of recommendation. Some of these are:

  • To focus on the top priorities mentioned above – although it notes they should be weighed up under a cost-benefit analysis.
  • Smarter ticketing options which reward regular users and create the feeling of receiving a ‘win’. Examples listed include free bonus trips for frequent users, promotions to encourage recreational or social trips or free PT for students.
  • Better real-time systems and WiFi
  • Strategies to target people changing though life stages such as:
    • Targeting people who move to new locations – this is something I believe AT are already doing however it could go further by starting to highlight areas with good PT and active options.
    • Family passes to encourage use of PT for those with young families.

Overall it’s a fascinating study with a heap of useful information. It highlights well that if we can get some of the much needed improvements to PT and active modes that a lot more people will choose to use them in the future and combined with the large Gen Y cohort moving through society it means there is a lot of growth for PT yet to come.

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  1. Another recommendation – get rid of temporal prejudice. Those of us who don’t start at 9am don’t have good PT options. I’d literally find it easier to start work at 6pm than at 6am.

  2. That last chart involves some interesting value judgements by the analysts. The choice to divide ‘increased frequency’ in two is one, but they did the same with ‘integrated ticketing ‘ and ‘free transfers’ which after all amount to the same thing.
    Combining these together for Gen Y we get 36.9% for integrated ticketing and 52.6% for increased frequency. To which the 19.3% of ‘shorter overall trip times’ could also be added. Frequency has a huge bearing on overall trip times, especially when transfers are involved. Increasing frequency is clearly the biggest issue for Gen Y.

    So the clear calls from Gen Y are for better frequencies and quicker cheaper transfers. And the main contrast between the groups is that the Control group were more interested in coverage, ie they were more likely to live or be travelling to lower demand areas, or perhaps are resistant to walking far to a stop? Coverage is more likely to be more of an issue for older respondents, living in lower density areas.

    1. There are actually three frequency measures, the other is interpeak however it isn’t listed in the top 10. That brings up frequency as a total up even more.

  3. It would be great if we could drop these awful labels such as “Gen Y”. There’s no single definition of what it means for a start, and it promotes the preposterous idea that there’s this tribe of people with similar views. It also supports the even more ludicrous idea of a conflict between “Gen Y” and the “Boomers”. Don’t know what happened to Gen X. It think that’s meant to be me. We never get mentioned any more 🙁

    I know that these labels are seductive, and much favoured by marketing folk, but it’s all a bit childish isn’t it? Can we not just keep some precision and analyse by age groups alone.

    1. Yeah these generalisations are always just that; generalisations. But they do offer a useful way to map shifts in preference through time. After all change is the only constant, and this is especially evident in those concentrations of people called cities. We all have a bit of a habit of generalising out our own choices so it is always good to go to the data to see if we are typical and if so of what.

      Time bound groups do face a whole lot of collective experiences, technological, economic, social, political. It isn’t meaningless. And of course there are always ‘generational traitors’ people outside of the defined age groups who hold views more closely identified with another group. I am, after all, by some definitions a Boomer. I don’t think like one, mostly. And I’ve met more than a few ‘young fogies’; old before their time.

    1. NZTA’s report defined “Gen Y” as all those born in the years from 1979 to 1999.

      Slightly wider than some other definitions, but read the paper for reason why they chose that range.

  4. This phenomenon was observable in cities like Toronto almost 30 years ago. More and more young people (now middle-aged and beyond) abandoned cars in favour of public transport because the latter was cheaper, faster and more convenient for the vast majority of trips. When I was living in Toronto in the late 70s and early 80s I became a defacto “Generation Y”. I rented a flat near the Spadina subway station and sold my car (no where to park it legally) and for 3.5 years I was 100% public transport and walking. This shaped my views on public transport ever after. It can be good and better than cars…..because I’ve seen it. Toronto built its subway system when the population was only 800,000 and cars were in the ascendant….so Auckland has suffered from a lack of foresight and consequent failure of will…..both too often based in one end of the political spectrum more than the other. They are still at it. It’s just sad.

    1. because I’ve seen it
      And that’s I think is a critical issue here, not just for public transport but also, for instance, for cycling.

      A common way of experiencing PT, is having one bus per hour, which may or may not show up, and may or may not be half an hour late. I have been stranded a couple of times due to buses not showing up. In the CBD, not some outlying suburb.

      And as for cycling, a lot of people consider a situation where a lot of people want to ride their bicycles as some horrible dystopia where their cars will be gridlocked in a sea of bicycles riding in their way. Those big Bike Barn shops you see around here don’t even stock city bikes at all!

      1. You must have not been to bike barn for a while. Some of the racing bikes shops, such as specialised, only have racing bikes, most have good upright city bikes.

        1. The last time I was in one was indeed almost a year ago, in Newton. I spent some time in the shop looking for an upright bike. The shopkeeper eventually recommended I got one of those hybrid mountain bikes.

    2. This is a good point. I remember the anti PT lobby saying only when Auckland reaches 1mil people will rail or light rail be viable. Now the same kinds of people have just moved this imaginary number up to some out of reach figure where as we know that whatever is built and run well will be used. People can’t chose to ride an imaginary train.

      And what transport systems we do build shapes the city. Ironically it seems the gov knows this and is insisting we have an autodependent sprawling unintense pattern for the nation’s only city of scale. Another Christchurch only 5x bigger, and on a more constraint geography. Despite the evidence that this will make for an inefficient and unproductive place. Presumably to be carried by the countryside as it will not develop a dynamic urban economy…. Odd. Or is it from a deep fear of the urban and Auckland’s rise in particular, by these provincialists?

  5. Good to see improved coverage there, surprised to see AT’s maps show NO extra coverage by 2025, just improved frequencies. Why can’t we see areas unserved by PT with anything beyond school buses at least have a minibus/van type service or something and then change to bigger buses etc if the service grows. In Auckland we have this strange obsession with all PT requiring a big bus or etc…

    1. Yes it would be good to see some form of service to the likes of Stillwater/Waiwera/Puhoi/Warkworth for example (I’m sure there are other examples out West and down South etc).

      1. Waiwera is already served, and still will be. A service is being introduced Warkworth to Silverdale. A Tuakau service is being started as well as Maraetai to Botany. What other areas need coverage added?

        1. Taupaki, Riverhead, Paremoremo, Lucas Heights could connect with transport hubs in Massey and Albany and be served by a single service, possibly a minibus to begin with.

        2. Taupaki being served by a bus from Kumeu to Swanson, could see some advantage to running a minibus from Albany to Kumeu through Pare and Riverhead, we jut have to acknowledge that it will not cover it’s cost in fares until far more people are living there. It’s really more of a public service.

    1. Simple answer: because bike racks on buses are only viable when no-one uses them! Think about the delays to services caused by people loading and unloading bikes from buses. Itd be like everyone paying for their fare in 10 cent pieces instead of using hop.

      Much better to provide bike locks at stops and then provide comprehensive bike and car share in centres for final leg. Note that bicycles on rail is allowed …

      1. I used to use the bike racks in Christchurch quite a lot and the problem can be summed up in one word: scalability.

        As you say, if there are only a few cyclists then all good, but as soon as it becomes a popular option the system breaks down.

        That is why you never see bike racks in countries like the Netherlands or Denmark. Though I did see a mention that taxis in Denmark must provide a bike rack – interesting idea. Trains are a different story – they have the space to provide for lots of bikes.

        Though I did see this on a German bus – looks more scalable:


  6. Not quite…if there are a few walk-ons per bike then bike can be loaded as they tap their cards (frown, wait, re-tap when it gets their credit card instead, etc.). The ones I’ve seen are juxtaposed as well so two people can load their bikes at the same time. I was skeptical of them when I moved to Seattle (where all buses have had racks for years), but after five years of being there I only remember not getting a spot a handful of times (and one of those was after a huge outdoor concert). They made becoming a cyclist easier for me, actually; helped me get over the initial stage of “uh I can’t be bothered” because I figured I could just put the bike on the bus. With experience I found I could almost always get a spot if I wanted one, but often I just rode home anyway. So, personally, I found them encouraging and functional (psychologically and physically!). Caveats: My routes had frequent service and I didn’t live so far away I couldn’t ride if I had to. Good lock-up spots at stops would be a vast improvement over current situation in AK but wouldn’t they also be subject to capacity constraints (esp. if they’re the full cover-over locker style—or did you mean just simple open-air racks)? A rack on a bus is used only for that trip so each bus need only cater for the bike/bus commuters in it’s load, but a rack at a stop might be used for a whole day by a 9–5 commuter so each route might have to cater for more like a whole route-day’s worth of bike/bus commuters. Seems like they’d be at risk of filling up too. Don’t have any numbers to check so just an idea.

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