Automobile manufacturers are worried.
Baby boomers, the largest purchaser of vehicles, are aging and not requiring car replacement as often as before, while the young adult millennials, another large segment of our population, are not driving as much – if at all. In fact, many young consumers don’t care about cars.
In the U.S. and Canada the percentage of teenagers obtaining a driver’s licence has dropped nearly 20 per cent in the last 15 years.
While the boomers and the millennials may not have a great deal in common both do increasingly share one value: they want more public transportation, cycling and walking trails, more compact, service-accessible neighbourhoods, and quieter cities that feature more nature.
This fall Nanaimo will be releasing its Transportation Master Plan. This follows on the heels of last year’s Strategic Plan the city adopted that clearly stated we want far more “alternative” ways of moving around – and limit the primacy of the automobile. With the average motor vehicle costing its owner close to $10,000 a year, on top of the hefty tax-payer subsidies to support the required infrastructure and health-care costs, this desire for the less costly, healthier and more sustainable public transportation makes sense.
The Young Professionals of Nanaimo, representing this younger segment of our population, are realizing that changes need to take place now if they can hope to enjoy life in the ways to which we have become accustomed.
Thus they spearheaded the rebuilding of the historic train station, are pushing for the rebuilding of our railway, and have built and continue to maintain community garden plots.
As Europeans and most developed nations already enjoy, we baby-boomers envision an efficient public transportation system that easily allows movement from bus to train, ferry or airplane, greatly reducing costs, one that improves both our sense of community and actual health outcomes.
Cities that feature more natural green corridors located near residential and work places are increasingly attracting younger professionals, too.
They are not alone. The number one request to the parks and recreation department is for walking trails, driven by baby boomers.
Alternatives to private automobiles also include carsharing (private use, shared costs) and car pooling (shared rides).
These are rising in popularity here and elsewhere.
Car companies are finally adopting more sustainable technologies, notably electric drives.
They would be even wiser to invest in buses and passenger trains if they hope to retain their relationship with the baby boomers and the millennials.