When the Pew Research Center set out to identify the characteristics of Generation Y – the Millennial Generation – little did they know they’d uncover the first young adults in 50 years who would rather rent a bus than drive a car.
Millennials – so called because they are the first generation to come of age in the new millennium – are now between the ages of 18 and 33. Like generations before them, they are politically and socially more liberal than their parents; they promise to be the best educated generation in the nation’s history; and, despite record levels of education debt and a tough job market, they are they are optimistic about the future.
In a 2013 research study – “Generation Next” – The Pew Research Center found the Millennial Generation to be “confident, connected, and open to change.”
Time magazine, in its May, 2013, cover story, called Millennials “lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.”
So, who are the Millennials, and what sets them apart from other generations?
According to the Pew Research Center study, the thing that distinguishes Generation Y is “hyper connectivity.” At least 95 percent of Millennials use the Internet. Seventy five percent have profiles on social networking sites like Facebook. And more than 60 percent of the Gen Y cohort stays online 24/7 -- via smartphones, tablets, and other wireless devices. Eighty percent of Millennials sleep with a cell phone next to their bed.
They are social. Millennials put a lot of stock in friendship – and not just their 1,000 Facebook friends. E-mail, instant messaging, social media, and texting have made it easy for young people to stay connected to their friends – and they communicate constantly. Maybe it’s because they’re marrying later than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts, but Millennials – more than any other group -- tend to think of their friends as extended family.
Millennials vote. They care about the environment. They have more body piercings and tattoos than any other generation. They are pioneering the new “sharing economy” – a model of sharing products and resources rather than owning them. They are picky consumers. They travel in packs.
And when it comes to cars … they’re just not that into them.
In a 2013 study about America’s driving habits, the U.S. Public Interest Group (PIRG) stated flatly, “The Driving Boom is over.” Americans, in general, are driving less. Per-capita VMT (vehicle miles traveled) peaked in 2004 and has been on the decline ever since. Younger Millennials (in the 16-24 age group) are driving 23 percent less than those their age in 2001.
There are a number of reasons for this trend.
Getting a driver’s license at age 16 used to be an almost-mandatory rite of passage. Millennials are the first generation to take their time. In 2011, only 67 percent of 16 to 24 year-olds had drivers’ licenses -- the lowest percentage in 50 years, down from a high of 85 percent in 1983.
Unlike generations past, Millennials aren’t that keen on car ownership, either. In a survey commissioned by the car sharing company Zipcar last February, Millennials said they’d sooner give up their car than their cell phone. In a similar study, the computer networking company, Cisco, found that most college students would choose an Internet connection over a car.
Millennials may have heard from their Baby Boomer parents about a mythical America where gas could be purchased for 35 cents a gallon … but those days are gone. With pump prices at ten times the 1965 rate – plus the expense of parking, maintenance, and insurance – there are cheaper ways to get around.
More Millennnials are opting to live in urban neighborhoods where they can walk, bike, ride a subway, or take a bus.
Global warming isn’t just for tree huggers anymore. Most Americans (and a vast majority of Millennials) believe that climate change is real, that human activities contribute to it, and that we need to do something about it. Many see driving less as a step in the right direction.
Rather than always driving to shop, socialize, work, or attend a class, Millennials are content to conduct many of their daily activities on line.
The Zipcar survey found that 57 percent of Millennials would drive less if options like ride sharing, mass transit, and carpooling were readily available.
For a generation concerned about the environment and seeking alternatives to driving, buses make a lot of sense. With Millennials’ desire to save money, their preference for socializing in large groups, and their need to stay connected, it’s no wonder that they love motorcoaches. Motorcoaches are affordable, convenient, and surprisingly luxurious, with DVD players, WiFi, and power outlets that make it possible for Generation Y to stay “plugged in” in every way.
All the best,
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