Transit should cater to similar needs of seniors and Millennials

While Millennials and seniors are in diametrically opposing life stages, they are similar in many ways in their attitudes towards public transportation.

Take the Millennials interviewed and surveyed back in 2012 and 2013 by the American Public Transportation Association’s Millennials & Mobility study and the Arlington, Va., seniors who participated in Mobility Lab’s focus groups this April.

Sixty-nine percent of Millennials utilize multiple modes of transportation a few times per week or more. Three is the average number of transportation options used on a typical trip for a Millennial.

With smartphones and other mobile devices, we can now find the best ways of transportation. This change in lifestyle and technology is what sets my generation apart from others.” (Millennial, APTA study)

Seniors participating in the focus groups similarly think strategically about the ways they’ll get around. For example:

I always take Metro into the District.” (Senior, Mobility Lab focus groups)

Mode selection before seniors leave home depends on their mood, time constraints, and other planned activities.

Meanwhile, Millennials are much more budget conscious and rely on transportation apps to get around efficiently. They turn to public transportation that is inexpensive and reliable and they want real-time departure and arrival updates through technology.

I think, for me, time is a big factor. If I were to take public transportation to someplace local, I could drive it in five minutes or I could get there in 45 minutes with public transportation, I’m going to take the car. (Senior, Mobility Lab focus groups)

It just depends on how I feel. (Senior, Mobility Lab focus groups)

We are well-connected when it comes to searching and finding information; we need to plan our transportation ahead of time. (Millennial, APTA study)

Millennials and seniors in both studies considered themselves to be technologically savvy, socially engaged and “on the go.” According to the APTA study, Millennials find public transportation to be a productive place to socialize digitally. From Mobility Lab’s focus groups, Arlington’s seniors consider themselves to be “fairly” technologically savvy (they have smartphones and use apps) and were also open to considering new ways of doing things in general.

If you are at a bus stop and want to know when the next bus is and you don’t know, on your phone each bus stop has a number, an ID number, and you can plug-in the ID number and it will come up and say, “The next bus is due in three minutes.” (Senior, Mobility Lab focus groups)

Many of us are happy with biking, and see public transit as a way to meet people, connect, and have extra time to do work while commuting. And with smartphones, it’s easy to figure out bus schedules and keep connected while commuting. (Millennial, APTA study)

It’s the technology age- fewer people are socializing in person and more are socializing online. (Millennial, APTA study)

Based on these findings, Millennials and seniors in suburban and urban areas would find transit more appealing with better wi-fi options, lower costs, and more real-time information about transit options, arrivals, and departures.


Full report: Arlington County Senior Citizens Transportation Study (PDF)

Arlington Seniors Focus Group Discussion Guide

Press release: Survey: Arlington seniors are savvy users of public transportation

Related article: Seniors, not just Millennials, may be turning away from driver’s licenses

Our contributor Stephanie K. Firestone’s series of “Age’n Community” blogs and videos

Photo by Almond Butterscotch/Flickr.

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