Talking Headways Podcast: OMG Enough About Millennials Already

podcast icon logoJeff is back from Rail~volution with all the highlights from the sessions he skipped because he was deep in conversation in the hallways. Isn’t that what conferences are for? We discuss what we do and don’t get out of these big meetings.

We also get into CityLab‘s examination of the gap between public support for transit spending and actual transit ridership, and we bring in some illuminating survey results from Transit Center [PDF] (and of course, The Onion) to shed light on what the people want from their transit systems. And we agree: While millennials are an important cohort to look at as we examine changing trends in transportation habits, good lord we are sick of talking about them

Stay tuned till the end of the podcast for Jeff’s rundown of the conferences you can still attend this season — there are, according to his count, 50 bajillion more. Pick one and go skip all the sessions and hang out in the hallways like the cool kids.

And hang out with us by subscribing to Talking Headways on our RSS feedStitcher or iTunes.

The comments section awaits your contribution to our witty repartee.

  • Ken

    First off, I love this podcast. Many thanks to Tanya and Jeff for taking the time and effort to put together this thought-provoking resource and for offering it to me (essentially) free of charge. I’m not a transportation person or a planning person by trade (I work in public health), so I’ve learned a great deal about transit & planning issues from this podcast. I have found their approach to be informative, challenging at times (in a good way) and accessible.

    Secondly, I’m glad they brought up the topic of age and transit in the most recent podcast. I support their desire to extend the conversation beyond the Millenial generation. I, for one, would love to hear more about the ways in which national and global demographics influence transit usage (whenever they cover issues related to transit and planning in relation to age, race, poverty, etc. I find myself particularly engaged).

    Finally, I (respectfully) think the last podcast may have missed a little bit of an opportunity. I felt that, in an effort to present the ‘alternative’ viewpoint that focuses attention explicitly on millenials, Tanya set up a bit of a false choice: that we should focus on millenials because they’re the future and they’ll be around for years to come whereas baby boomers are going to start dying off pretty soon. The fact of the matter is, baby boomers are going to be around and influencing the economy for a long time to come – maybe not for as many decades as the millenials, but certainly for decades.

    At one point in the podcast Tanya said that the focus on millenials “helps us”, which I took to mean that it promotes an agenda that is pro-transit and pro-walkability. It seems to me that an age-inclusive approach could view the aging of the boomers as being inherently pro-transit and pro-walkability, as well. I don’t just mean the “bohemian” boomers who may choose to buy a loft downtown because they identify with the ethos of new urbanism. I mean all boomers – peeople who need to get around and who will, eventually, have to retire from driving. Walkable spaces with access to usable transit is good for people who can’t drive for health reasons, as well as people who don’t drive for economic or political reasons.

    This gets to a broader point, which is that the baby boomers are just the beginning. Our country is undergoing a gradual demographic change known as population aging – in which there will be more older adults relative to younger adults and children. Population aging will influence things in many ways (from public finance to the types of products being purchased to the delivery of social services). And it won’t end with the baby boomers because once population aging is here, it will be here to stay for a long time. For instance, millenials will eventually be – like the baby boomers are now – a huge cohort of individuals about to retire. A transit system that meets the needs of aging baby boomers will probably meet the needs of aging millenials, too.

    This all gets at the concept of universal design – designing products and environments that meet the needs of the greatest number of possible users.
    I think the point Tanya and Jeff were both ultimately getting at is: if the goal is to shift our society’s focus to more sustainable forms of transportation and development, why focus on age when good design works well for everyone? This is the essence of universal design. And, in light of the fact that so much of these transportation decisions are made by political officials (on some level or another), it seems logical that a bigger umbrella is going to be more successful than a movement arbitrarily divided along age (or any other) lines.

    Thanks, again, to Tanya and Jeff for a great podcast. And I welcome any comments.

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