Posted: 08/02/15 22:53
by Dave Mindeman
My son is 18 years old and about to enter college. He does not have a driver's license and he doesn't want a car.
It is not because his parents don't want him driving out on his own. In fact, we are scratching our heads as to why he isn't obsessed about cars like the previous generation seemed to be.
He claims that he can get what he needs on the internet and there is always public transportation. (at least he assumes so)
It would seem he is not alone....
In fact, younger people are less likely to drive -- or even to have driver's licenses -- than past generations for whom driving was a birthright and the open road a symbol of freedom. Research by Michael Sivak of the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan found that young people are getting driver's licenses in smaller numbers than previous generations.
Alright, if that is the case, what does it mean for policy?
Well, it means one thing for certain. Our future transportation policy discussions need to adjust. Roads and bridges need to be maintained but the next generation is assuming that they will have other options. And judging by the current legislature in Minnesota, we are failing them miserably.
The debate on Southwest Light Rail is a case in point. We dragged our feet on moving this forward. We let costs escalate. We didn't reach a consensus fast enough. And in the end we nearly let it die.
This rail line will fall into an all too familiar pattern. And that means we lose options and fall short of expectations. The Hiawatha didn't expand beyond the Mall of America. The NorthStar got cut off at Big Lake. The Green Line was the closest to full expectations and the higher than expected ridership followed.
Southwest will have to cut back as well, but it must move forward. Light Rail in Minnesota needs to have full implementation - the millennials will demand it.
Millennials are more likely to want to live in urban and walkable neighborhoods and are more open to non-driving forms of transportation than older Americans. They are also the first generation to fully embrace mobile Internet-connected technologies, which are rapidly spawning new transportation options and shifting the way young Americans relate to one another, creating new avenues for living connected, vibrant lives that are less reliant on driving.
They seem to be embracing a future that our current leaders are not prepared to give them.
I am afraid that these millennials have assumed that their transportation needs will be there....and I am not confident that the current generation of leadership is on the same page.
At some point, this new generation will have to engage on this issue themselves and become more politically involved.
For the sake of transportation solutions, I hope that this happens soon.