A new study presenting a survey of 500 students at 10 of the state’s public and private universities sheds lights on an overlooked issue in debates over Ohio’s “brain drain.” The report Searching for a Better Ride, from the Ohio PIRG Education Fund shows that the majority of students surveyed value the importance to live in a place where they could get around without driving after graduation.
“To stay competitive Ohio needs to expand other transportation options to attract and retain the millennial generation,” said Kathleen Woodruff, Field Organizer for Ohio PIRG Education Fund. “Young people want the option to use public transit, bike, walk and use new options such as bikeshare and carshare.”
Of Ohio students surveyed, 86 percent believe it is very important to live in a place where they could get around without driving after college. Rapid advances in mobile technology applications for transportation has made it easier to using other modes of transportation, which Millennials say allows them to be time and cost efficient. Young people are also aware of the environmental and health impacts of driving.
“The results of this study are very consistent with the results of the State of Ohio’s Transit Needs Study commissioned by ODOT and released just a few months ago,” said RTA’s CEO and General Manager, Joe Calabrese.
“For our State to attract and retain the young and educated workforce of tomorrow, we need to give them what they want, and they want to live in a community that is allows them to easily walk, bike or use public transit,” Calabrese said. “It’s really quite simple. If we in Ohio do not provide these amenities and the quality of life they seek, they will locate to cities that do,” he said.
In addition to the survey, the study draws a number of conclusions:
• Millennials are not abandoning driving outright, but a variety of transportation options are important to this generation (people ages 14-31 years old).
• Cities that already have good systems to get around without driving are increasingly attractive to Millennials. Transportation is an important determinant for Millennials deciding where to live. Cities like Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul, which are investing heavily in diverse transportation systems, are also seeing high growth in the number of young people living there.
• Millennials are looking for ways to travel while staying connected on mobile devices, lowering their individual environmental impact, and reducing the costs of car ownership.
Investing in alternatives to driving is an important step to retaining and attracted new talented, skilled, educated individuals. Even students who currently drive would be more open to using public transportation and other options if they were available or more convenient. Of student respondents who drive to school, 52 percent say they would be “very likely” to take public transportation if it was more convenient, while overall 84 percent say they were “somewhat” or “very likely” to use it if it was more convenient.
Over 40 percent of respondents state their reasons for not taking public transportation was because it took too long and about 20 percent say it was because they did not leave close to a public transportation option. In contrast, 86 percent of students responded that it was “very important” or “somewhat important” to live near other transportation options besides driving after graduation and 91 percent of respondents said it was “somewhat” or “very important” to reduce the costs associated with car ownership. This indicates driving habits are greatly shaped by a lack of alternatives.
“People live in or move to cities because they value choice, key among these choices is transportation,” Jacob VanSickle, Executive Director of Bike Cleveland. “One way for Ohio to attract millennials is to pass policies and build environments that make the alternative transportation easily accessible for people who choose or require them.”
Additionally, Millennials are more aware of the environmental impacts of their transportation decisions and likely to base their habits on environmental concerns. About 91 percent of students surveyed said they were “somewhat” or very concerned” with the environmental impacts of driving.
“Public transportation, biking, walking and other options in Ohio need to be improved and today’s study suggests that doing so will help to attract and retain the young talent, such as the large numbers of young people that come to attend the state’s many colleges and universities,” said Woodruff. State and local leaders should improve public transportation in Ohio and revisit decisions to invest heavily in future highway expansion.”
The new report can be found here.