ONDA employee Ben Gordon brings his pup to work by bicycle

By Katy Bryce, for Commute Options

The most recent U.S. Census report shows that Millennials, those between the ages of 15 and 33, have officially outnumbered the Baby Boomers, making them the largest and most diverse generation in history. Currently, Millennials comprise 26% of our population and are expected have a strong influence on our transportation and mobility systems now and in the future.

It is clear that Millennials will be a powerful generation of citizens and workers and you’ve likely heard interesting things about them—everything from “entitled” to “entrepreneurial.” One thing that all researchers can agree on is that this generation has a distinct way of choosing how and where to work and live and how to get from one place to another. This is important for communities and employers to know to attract and retain the Millennial workforce.

An early 2015 study by The Rockefeller Foundation and Transportation for America found that many Millennials want access to better transit options such as buses and trains, better walking and biking opportunities, and the ability to be less reliant on a car. That same study shows that 70% of Millennials who currently do not have regular access to a vehicle say they could not afford to live in an area without access to public transportation. 86% say that it is important that their city offer a low-cost public transportation system with affordable fares.

Millennials also demand a work-life balance from employers that includes the flexibility to work productively from anywhere, with the help of technology. Employers that embrace telework and flexible hours not only attract and retain younger employees, but also help promote transportation options by allowing their employees to work from home.

Kiki Dohman, Transportation Demand Management Specialist with Salem-Keizer Transit works with employers to develop transportation options programs that appeal to Millennials. “Millennials came into the workforce right at the recession, so they are cost and convenience driven. They are also independent, so they are more likely to use public transportation, walk or ride a bike, but they are less likely to carpool or vanpool. These are not just trends, but a reality for these folks—important distinctions to make when planning for future transportation systems.” Millennials also embrace the rapidly growing sharing economy and regularly use sharing services such as Airbnb, Uber and car and bike sharing services.

The Millennials are here and they are a big part of our communities and workforce. Generation Z, also known as the “digitarians”, are between 13 and 20 years old and they will demand even stronger alternative transportation systems. Dohman adds, “This generation was born into technology and they literally have everything at their fingertips. They don’t feel that they need cars and we are seeing a huge decline in the next generation even getting their drivers licenses.”

Jeff Monson, Executive Director for Commute Options adds, “The Millennials fit right into the goals of Commute Options. We want to offer better transportation options and technology, like a bike share program with a cell phone app, real time carpool matching and Wi-Fi on buses.”

Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director, Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org

Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. www.katybryce.com