Most people like to have choices and transportation is no exception. Cities all across the country are responding with a more pedestrian-oriented design that also gives all sorts of people more options. Now aging baby-boomers can maintain their independence past their driving years. Urban families can choose to live in walkable, bikeable neighborhoods. And even the transportation services are getting smarter and more diverse as more people chose to avoid the costs of driving alone.
Public Transit Gets Smart
Technology is changing the way the transit industry attracts customers. Almost half of respondents in a U.S. Census Bureau survey said that having access to wifi played a major factor in deciding which options to use. When you consider that over half of all transit riders in the U.S. are between the ages of 25-54, of whom 72% are using options to get to work, it’s no surprise that they want access to an internet connection during their commute as well as mobile apps like Dadnab, RideScout and Google maps to make planning trips easy.
In Austin, transit ridership has been steadily growing. In 2011-12 bus ridership grew by 3.9 percent and rail ridership by a whopping 49 percent. With the arrival of MetroRapid next year, which will have wifi, real-time arrival information, mobile ticketing, and signal priority technology, ridership is only expected to grow. It’s not just Austin, either. Record high gas prices and improved technology have made public transit an appealing and affordable option to commuters all across the country.
You Don’t Own The Car of The Future
Rising operational costs and a preference for access over ownership in the first generation to drive less than their parents since the automobile was invented has caused a surge in car-sharing and a decline in licensed drivers in America. “Millennials” are the largest demographic driving the “sharing economy”, and they prefer collaborative consumption over ownership, their smart phones over driving alone, and might turn to social media if they need to catch a ride.
However, Zipcar COO and President Mark Norman, in a U.S. News report says, “It is bigger, much bigger, than one slice of demographics. We’ve got people who are investment bankers, hedge fund managers. Granted, not in large numbers,” he says, but these drivers are drawn primarily by convenience.
Sharing services has never been easier or cheaper. With Car2go, Zipcar, and real-time carpooling options like Carma that allow any driver to find a passenger and fill an empty seat directly from their mobile app, it’s more convenient to share.
Designing With The Pedestrian In Mind
Walkable neighborhoods are gaining in popularity as more and more homebuyers and families are choosing to live in areas well served by public transit systems. Universal walkability is also a key factor in what are known as “lifelong communities,” that help seniors maintain quality of life and remain independently mobile once they move past their driving years. Aside from the convenience of access to options, the overall value of homes is higher in areas served by public transit than those that aren’t and tend to hold their value better over the long term.
Then, of course, there are the health benefits. The 2012 Benchmarking Report by The Alliance for Biking and Walking reported that where bicycling and walking levels are higher, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes levels are lower. Higher levels of bicycling and walking also coincide with increased bicycle and pedestrian safety and higher levels of physical activity. With epidemic levels of childhood obesity, and an aging population of seniors that would benefit from staying active, designing for the pedestrian is good for us all.
We’re All In This Together
We are realizing that we no longer have to “leave with the one who brought us” and can decide to carpool or bicycle or take the train into town, then use something completely different to go back home. That is a liberating realization and all signs point to even more and better options coming soon to a neighborhood near you!