With the United States hitting a 50-year high in transit ridership in 2013, it turns out we’re not the only ones interested in learning more about the transit riders behind the nearly 11 billion rides. Fantastic ridership numbers aside, what’s motivating transit riders across America?
TransitCenter, a transportation-focused philanthropy, gets to the bottom of these questions in their new study. Who’s On Board: 2014 Mobility Attitudes Survey points to some unsurprising elements: transit riders are disproportionately young, members of ethnic minorities, and they live in dense neighborhoods where high-quality transit is available. And these riders aren’t concerned with fancy amenities, they choose transit based on travel time and reliability.
But what about the so-called generation gap between transit riders? Featuring data gathered from 11,842 respondents in 46 metropolitan areas, survey data highlights that younger folks are more likely to choose transit. In fact, people under 30 are far more likely to ride public transportation and express positive feelings about it than older people, regardless of their location or what kind of neighborhood they grew up in.
These age-linked ridership trends were present in both “traditional cities” like San Francisco, Boston, and New York, as well as regions with much lower overall ridership. The study also found that the preference isn’t just linked to those under 30 being childless and free spirited. In fact, across all income brackets, parents under 30 used transit significantly more than those between 30 and 60. Forty-five percent of the under-30 parent transit riders with incomes above $75,000 said they use transit weekly, compared with 16 percent of parents between 30 and 60 in the same income bracket.
There’s another interesting piece of this survey worth noting: the transit-friendly younger group reported being raised in disproportionately autocentric environments. Their families were less likely to have encouraged walking and biking, and they were less likely to have had easy access to transit. Yet this group still prefers transit.
Perhaps the most significant finding from this survey is that both generations are defying the way they were raised. The Millennial generation of transit riders seems to be defying its suburban upbringing by delaying the acquisitions of a driver’s license and choosing transit. Meanwhile Baby Boomers, who grew up using transit and were encouraged to do so, are defying their upbringing by avoiding transit now. The demand for transit is clear and this survey suggests this trend in support for transit is unlikely to cease in the decades to come.
Read the full survey to learn more key points: http://transitcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/WhosOnBoard2014-ForWeb.pdf