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.
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.
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.
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.