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75 This study of factors influencing markets for public transportation has examined the relevant factors and anticipated trends that may affect future travel behavior. The future for markets for public transportation can be characterized in part as too uncertain to predict and in part as predictable within reasonable levels of uncertainty. This concluding chapter reviews that which one can know (or reasonably guess) and that which one cannot know. Things That Can Be Predicted About Future Transit Markets What is known is that in 20 years, the population will be 20 years older than it is today. Each cohort will move into an entirely different age group and, quite possibly, carry with it some of the unique characteristics that make this cohort different from others. That they will be in a new age group is certain; the extent to which they will retain their values and market preferences as they age is far from certain. Also known is that a new cohort, generation Z, will move into the age groups generally from ages 15 to 34 and that transit-supportive life patterns have consistently resulted in high transit orientation for the younger members of these age groups. The proportion of the population that is white and living in a two-partner household with children will decrease over time. Markets for transit will continue to become more diverse from a sociodemographic perspective. Much of this is good news for transit ridership, especially as the Hispanic portion of the American metropolitan population becomes larger, on the basis of the patterns discussed in Chapter 2. Also known is that within a given 20-year period, the percentage of the housing stock that is newly built is quite small: the physical urban form of a metropolitan area takes a long time to change, even as trendy condominium towers appear in more dense areas and settlement patterns in the suburbs become somewhat more dense. By comparison, the migration of the population within a comparatively fixed urban form occurs more quickly; a housing stock well suited for lower-middle-class families can be overtaken by younger, more single populations ready to live with roommates who together can pay more rent than the traditional families they have displaced. Further, the motivational forces in the stages of the life cycle are largely stable. The influence of age-based factors on residential location is easier to forecast than the cohort-based con- sistencies in behavior over time. Figure 31 suggests that the high need for and reliance on the private car for those between 30 and 50 years of age is largely stable and predictable. Figure 31 also shows two more things: (1) the transportation needs of those up to 30 years of age are highly C H A P T E R 8 Conclusions and Further Research
76 Understanding Changes in Demographics, Preferences, and Markets for Public Transportation unstable and changing constantly, and (2) the transportation needs of those between 50 and 65 years of age also are susceptible to change, with the advent of empty nesting and retirement. With regard to the vulnerability of separate market groups, those moving from their 20s to their 30s and those moving from their 50s to their 60s are about to make highly important decisions about which patterns they retain and which patterns they reject in the next phase of life. This study concludes that those currently in the age groups near 30 will make major decisions that are (overall) not positive for traditional transit use. Those in the age groups near 50 might make decisions that are positive for transit, walking, and bikingâquite possibly with a diminished role for large home formats and for the number of automobiles owned, in spite of the overall pattern of low transit use by older groups. Things That Cannot Be Predicted About Future Transit Markets Massive swings in cultural preference for locations and for automobiles are theoretically possibleâbut unlikely. This study has revealed that basic, deeply established beliefs associated with the phases of life will drive changes in residential location, and some of those changes in residential location will make intensive transit use far more difficult. There will continue to be meaningful preference for dense urban life by many of those under 30, followed by stable preference for more living space with continued aging until 50. Need for Owning Autos? The question of cultural attitudes toward the automobile is also hard to predict. While a massive rejection of the role of the automobile in American society is unlikely, variations in the way customers access them is another question. Assumedly, a decrease in the pattern of Source: 2009 NHTS. 3,000 5,000 7,000 9,000 11,000 13,000 15,000 17,000 16â20 21â25 26â30 31â35 36â40 41â45 Age A nn ua l V M T P er C ap ita 46â50 51â55 56â60 61â65 Figure 31. Effect of age on vehicle miles traveled (VMT), 2009. Three conceptual trend lines show that those younger than 30 and older than 50 may see a change in their need for a vehicle.
Conclusions and Further Research 77 affinity for the automobile would be positive for transit: further research should monitor for any change in the willingness to see the auto in a utilitarian manner rather than a hedonic manner. In some market segments, a lifestyle of owning no autos might be a preferred option for those who have not yet entered the child-rearing years. For those in the child-rearing years, a life with one less auto owned might be possible for some. Future TNC Services? The future roles of shared TNC services are as yet relatively difficult to forecast, as not enough is known about them. While the advent of TNC-dispatched private ride-hailing services has displaced other forms of taxi-like services, such an impact on traditional transit would be much less likely. In the future, using cell phoneâbased dispatching for vans and large autos could either end up as one element in a family of combined mobility services, or (more pessimistically), result in the cherry-picking of low-hanging fruit from transit agencies who have worked for decades to build up ridership on fixed route and schedule services in those corridors. It is too early to tell which will happen, but studies show that the youngest market segments would be the first to defect. Within the larger market supporting transit today, one market segment truly appreciates what transit does for the work commute, and a second (younger) segment is ready to move on to something else. Predicting the role of autonomous vehicles is even more uncertain. On the one hand, the rapid dispatching of small vehicles to serve as the either the last urban mile or the first urban mile could solve collection and distribution problems long faced in transit line-haul corridors. But the ultimate use of a massive number of small vehicles in place of efficient high-capacity line-haul services could have decidedly negative implications for the functioning of urban transportation systems as a whole. Again, it can be predicted that when the transition comes, the younger groups will be the first to test the new services, and the older groups will be the last. Implications for Further Research This project sought to better understand underlying forces that might affect the nature of markets for public transportation. To accomplish this goal, the research team utilized several factors based on a specific paradigm for how they interact, as diagrammed in Figure 32. Further research in this area should be guided by, and should build on, the following project findings: 1. Longer-term values, attitudes, and preferences influence the choice of residential setting and neighborhood characteristics. The results support the hypothesis that longer-term attitudes toward urbanism (such as being active in public places and living in a community with a mix of people of diverse backgrounds) have an impact on the density, car availability, and transit orientation of the residential neighborhood chosen. Further research should monitor the extent to which certain market segments value the urban setting so much that they would be less likely to move away. 2. The demographics of the user have a profound effect on the way longer-term values, attitudes, and preferences interrelate to ultimately influence the choice of mode. Of these factors, age is the most important in the examination of past and future behavior. Further research should monitor the extent to which transit-positive groups such as Hispanics are retaining their ridership patterns over time. 3. The physical settings and services of the neighborhood influence the formation of shorter-term attitudes about taking public transportation. A wealth of data in Chapter 5
78 Understanding Changes in Demographics, Preferences, and Markets for Public Transportation shows how preferences and attitudes about available modal options vary by the nature of the neighborhood type. Further research should monitor the extent to which the current trend of high-income, high-density housing in downtowns is proving to be supportive of transit ridership. 4. Near-term attitudes and assessments of the modes are influential in the choice of modes. Near-term concerns about safety in transit, sharing space with others in transit, and feeling that transit is more enjoyable or less stressful are reflected in statistically valid model parameters. â Further research should monitor any change in the reported concerns of the younger generation about fear of crime and disturbing behavior on transit and note any change in empirically observed conditions. â Further research should explore and build upon findings of this research that peer influence and the impact of oneâs extended social network are key to developing positive attitudes toward transit, especially among those under 35. Specific Project Ideas for Further Research The publication of this report occurs within the same time frame as the release of the 2017 NHTS, which updates the 2009 results used in this project. 1. It would be highly desirable to do a follow-up study that benefits from the richness of sample size of the 2017 NHTS to further document the implications for public transportation markets of changes between 2009 and 2017. VMT per capita has rebounded since 2013, but there is currently no way to know the differences by demographic category (particularly age and race and ethnicity) for trip making above and beyond the journey to work. Such a study should utilize the new data from the 2017 NHTS to further examine how the growth pattern for rail services in this country differs from the market behavior pattern for bus services. 2. It would be highly desirable to continue to explore the market reaction to new and develop- ing services such as the shared TNC services being tested around the country. Such a study Figure 32. Further studies of demographics, location, and psychographics can benefit from this projectâs analytical framework.
Conclusions and Further Research 79 would explore the question of the new services being in a competitive as opposed to a com- plementary role; the study would attempt to resolve differences in conclusions currently being reached in the present literature. 3. A study of the implications of recent demographic, geographic, and psychographic data for the creation of local transit marketing studies should be undertaken. Given that previous TCRP reports aimed at local transit marketing managers have made positive contributions to the ability of the practitioner, a follow-on study that benefits from recent survey work, with the 2017 NHTS augmented by new and recent attitudinal surveys could be undertaken. Such a study would ensure that the information prepared for transit marketers would be as accurate as possible. While the present study should provide background information to support the creation of locally specific transit marketing programs, it was designed to examine underlying patterns rather than to provide near-term guidance in the development of marketing programs. With the arrival of the 2017 NHTS data to support new strategies, a new research effort aimed entirely at transit marketers should be undertaken. This study should explore and build upon the results of the present research that peer pressure and the influence of oneâs social network are strongly related to transit use. 4. A study on the role of public transportation in serving the mobility needs of empty nesters could be undertaken. While a major conclusion of the present study has been that those approaching their 30s will be changing their lifestyle, a parallel conclusion is that some market segments in their 50s are considering a smaller home with greater potential for tran- sit, walking, and biking to provide mobility in somewhat denser locations than those of the previous 20-year period. Such a study of occasional transit users would acknowledge the lessened role of the work trip and document changes in walking and biking.