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Underlying user needs and drivers of young people's travel

One issue highlighted by Transport KTN's recent Round Table on Improving Urban Mobility Without New Infrastructure was a need to better understand underlying user needs and drivers of young people's travel needs and how these differ from those of 'established travellers'.


Why getting transport right matters to young people

A new report, ‘Transport Barriers Facing Young People’, commissioned by the Intergenerational Foundation and undertaken by Campaign for Better Transport has found the main issue facing 17-20 year olds is the rely on buses more than any other age group and are significantly disadvantaged by policies affecting bus provision.


How young people travel

According to the report, young people travel a shorter total distance and make fewer journeys than they used to but must now make longer journeys to reach their most frequent destinations. They make most of their journeys by car but, in common with older people, they use cars less and travel by bus more than people in the middle age groups.

However, they make significantly fewer car journeys than they did – down from almost 600 trips per person each year in the mid-1990s to 377 trips in 2011 – and fewer young people now own cars or have driving licences (only 38% of 17-20 year olds now have a driving license compared to 48% in the early 1990s). The reasons are not yet well understood but certainly include the increased costs of motoring and use of the internet and social networking.

The report states that the current generation of young people have grown up with very limited freedom of independent travel, compared to previous generations. Their surroundings had been dominated by traffic and their travel options limited because of the danger of traffic. Travel behaviour and lack of exercise are factors in growing obesity levels.

Children and young people also suffer disproportionately from the effects of car use. They figure prominently in road casualty statistics with road collisions the most common cause of death for 14-35 year olds. They are often more exposed and more vulnerable to air pollution from traffic. They will have to live with the consequences of carbon emissions from transport and climate change.Young people make a higher than average proportion of journeys on foot. The proportion of journeys they make by bicycle is no higher than the average for all groups and is strikingly low. The proportion and number of journeys made by bicycle by young people have declined since the mid-1990s.

There is mixed evidence on young people's attitude to driving, public transport and cycling. While most young people still want to learn to drive, they attach less symbolic value to cars and public transport can meet their transport requirements.Young people have been making more of their journeys by bus and use buses much more than any other age group (15% of their journeys are by bus compared to 7% for all ages). They often depend on buses for access to education, training and jobs.


Similar trend in the United States

The trend away from driving as soon as one is old enough to drive is noticeable and is forecast to continue in the United States. The American Millennial generation is leading the change in transportation trends, accordion to a new report from the US PIRG Education Fund that shows that American 16 to 34-year-olds drove 23% fewer miles on average in 2009 than in 2001 - the greatest decline in driving of any age group. and such demographic changes and other factors will likely keep driving down for decades, according to the report, A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America's Future.

"The Driving Boom is over", said Phineas Baxandall, Senior Analyst at the US PIRG Education Fund and co-author of the report. "The constant increases we saw in driving up until 2005 show no sign of returning. As more and more Millennials become adults, and their tendency to drive less becomes the norm, the reduction in driving will be even larger."


Young people’s concerns about transport

The Campaign for Better Transport finds that transport problems frequently prevent young people from accessing employment. Low skilled jobs are increasingly located out of city centres where they are more difficult to reach by public transport and may involve shift or weekend work when buses are less frequent or may not run at all.

With education it is the cost rather than the availability of transport that is likely to present most problems for young people. The majority of students travel to college by bus. For those at college, help with travel costs can be inadequate and, since the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, is at the discretion of the college.

Older people and those with disabilities have statutory concessionary travel schemes that meet their local public transport costs but the report highlights that travel concessions for younger people are patchy and are vulnerable to spending reductions.

Also, despite for the tenth year in a row, the Government has required that train fares rise by more than the rate of inflation, fares have increased by 33% in cash terms from 2007 to 20123 and many bus services have been reduced or discontinued entirely with over 40% of local authorities again making cuts in 2012/13.

These pressures are suggested to likely increase. 


Campaign for Better Transport Recommendations

The Campaign for Better Transport recommend that the 2013 spending round should not result in young people being further priced off public transport or more cuts being made in bus services; and should recognise the need for a national free concessionary travel scheme for young people and jobseekers.

Existing Department for Transport (DfT) programmes should consider the needs of young people more clearly and the Better Bus Areas fund, in particular, should encourage bidders to improve the offer for young people in their areas The DfT should give a stronger impetus to accessibility planning by local authorities.

The group also considers that the planning system should support the creation and retention of jobs in locations that can be served by public transport, particularly for entry level jobs suitable to young people It also calls for a package of measures to be introduced to make roads safer, provide cycling training at schools and promote cycling as a normal activity for people of all ages and backgrounds. Lastly it asks bus operators to be encouraged to see the benefits that improving their offer for young people, for example, in how they can align their corporate social responsibility programmes with young people's reliance on their services, for instance targeting programmes at young people on low incomes or those looking for work.


Time that young people's needs as transport users are taken seriously

Without these kinds of actions, Campaign for Better Transport said "we face a situation where young people are priced out of opportunities. Spending cuts that lead to this situation will simply add to long-term costs for our society as a result. It is time that young people's needs as transport users are taken seriously by the country's decision makers."

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