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Thoughts on Transit

Why Generation X Should Be Public Transportation's Target Market

by Ecolane / October 9, 2015

Imagine Millennials with both expendable incomes as well as children. You’re left with a fitting description of the Generation X community.  Millennials are Gen X’s younger siblings, cousins, maybe even nieces and nephews.  Millennials know the music of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, they watch watered down versions of The Simpsons and The Real World and they’re being taught the world by Gen Xers.   


When considering Baby Boomers, Millennials and Generation Xers, it is the latter group who are the least likely to grow up using public transportation.  It was the Baby Boomers who moved to the suburbs and the Millenials who are moving back to the city. In between, the Generation Xers went to school, worked hard, and are now driving the bulk of the global economy.  While this group, for the most part, don’t need to use public transportation, many of them are choosing to do so. 

What Gen X Wants Gen X Gets

The key difference and challenge in selling public transportation to Generation X is that it has to be convenient.  They are at a point with their families and careers where they are busy and have less free time.  They also have the financial resources to not have to wait around.  As a result, a standard bus route will not suffice for a typical Generation Xer unless they happen to live along a transit line that provides a direct path to their desired destination. This means that like Millennials, a multi-modal approach is key to getting Generation X to utilize public transit.

Millennials and Baby Boomers are less likely to be in a position to be picky about how they get around, although they understand the choices and use them to their advantage as well.

Stats Don’t Lie

Generation Xers, of course, do look at public transportation as more than just a way to get around.   In a survey by KRC Research and Zipcar, 14% of Generation Xers have consciously tried to curb their driving habits in the past year.  Interestingly enough, only 16% said that living near a bus route or rail line is important.  When considering that 69% of this group believe that it’s vital to explore energy alternatives, a disconnect can clearly be seen. After all, relying on public transportation ultimately reduces the use of gas and oil.

The good news is that some Generation Xers are utilizing public transportation; according to STREETBLOGS USA, “Generation X commuters are shifting away from private vehicles in nearly equal numbers. Overall, workers aged 25 to 54 saw their driving rate fall by 0.9 percentage points between 2007 and 2013. That drop equates to roughly 750,000 drivers — about the total number of commuters in Milwaukee — switching to other modes. That might help explain the stalling amount of miles driven across the country.”

Will the Future Repeat Itself?

The fact still remains though that Generation Xers use public transportation regularly 7% of the time compared to Millennials 20% and baby Boomers 10%.  The worrisome thing is that Millennials tend to follow in Generation X’s footsteps. As stated in Deloitte University Press, “ As Millennials age, many—like members of all generations before them since the rise of the mass-produced motor vehicle—will buy cars as soon as they can afford them.”

Hope does remain though. According to this article in BostInno: “So while it's almost common knowledge at this point that the younger generations adopt more feasible means of getting themselves from A to B, while those more acclimated to driving continue to do as such, the future could yield a completely different transportation landscape all together.”

While some fundamental differences between Millennials and Generation Xers might exist, it’s important for the transportation industry to understand the similarities and continue to tweak their routes, operations and services to get as much market share from Generation Xers as possible. That would lead to retaining Millennial ridership as they continue to age and move on to new chapters in their lives which no longer include watching The Simpsons and The Real World.

Tags: Transit Trends Demand Response Software

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