It's a well worn media trope. 21st century millennials are leading the way to a green transportation future, moving to cities, riding public transit, biking and walking - and often delaying car purchases indefinitely, to Detroit's growing dismay.
The reality is more complex, says a new study by University of Vermont researchers recently published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. Since the public discussion is mostly about the driving habits of post-college age 20-somethings who have moved to cities, the researchers decided to trace backward to see if there is evidence of high school age teens changing their behavior.
Their answer: only in part, suggesting the larger narrative may be overstated.
Infrastructure and land use patterns in the community play a major role in teens' decisions about whether to begin driving when they're of age, said Meghan Cope, professor of geography at the University of Vermont and co-author of the study.
"If we're concerned with trying to make non-car transportation viable for teens - a habit they could carry over into later years - then land-use patterns, density and the transportation network of walkable areas, bike paths and public transportation really matter," Cope said. Meeting teen mobility needs would also benefit other groups who can't depend on driving to meet their needs, she said.
The study compared teen behavior in two Vermont school districts. One was semi-urban with a variety of public transportation options and teen destinations like a mall and the high school located nearby. The other was more rural and suburban with little public transportation, and destinations - from the high school to friends' houses to shops - accessible only by car or school bus. Both districts are suburbs of Burlington.
In the more rural suburban district, teens obtained their driver's license on average within a month of their 16th birthday. In the more urban community, teens delayed several months before getting their license.
The study also looked at the way the Internet and cell phones influenced teen mobility. The authors found that technology influences travel behaviors by helping teens arrange rides and meeting up, but did not replace meeting in person.
Both communities the researchers studied were affluent, Cope said. Many families surveyed had the resources to purchase a car for their teen or make an existing vehicle available to them.
Even among educated, wealthy families with influence and extensive social networks, teens from the more rural suburbs encountered obstacles to their mobility, Cope said.
"No matter what their circumstances, they bumped up against a disconnected transportation infrastructure before they had a car," Cope said.
Transportation policy isn't only of academic interest, Cope said.
"There's a social justice dimension," she said. "Land-use decisions can marginalize whole groups of people. In car-oriented suburbs, teens whose families have fewer resources or challenging work schedules, elderly people, the disabled, the poor, and those who choose not to drive are left out."
To bring about a future that truly isn't reliant on the automobile, Cope recommended the following:
* Create interconnected, walkable communities. "Connectivity is the key word," she said; * Put zoning practices in place that encourage mixed-use development and higher residential densities; * Integrate both public transit and biking/pedestrian infrastructure into neighborhoods and commercial developments.
The study used a mix of research methods to obtain its results. Both parents and teens filled out an extensive questionnaire. The researchers also conducted a focus group with teens from both schools and held a participatory mapping session with them featuring an aerial photo of their towns; teens were asked to place stickers on places that were important them, while talking with the researchers about how they traveled there. The researchers also employed a research technique they invented, asking teens to verbally share selected text messages to give a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between texting and mobility, and to illuminate other aspects of their transportation choices.
The study's other co-author was Brian H.Y. Lee, who held joint appointments in the University of Vermont's College of Engineering and Mathematical Science and Transportation Research Center at the time of the study and is now a senior planner at the Seattle Regional Planning Commission.
Jeff Wakefield | EurekAlert!
Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften
Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
26.06.2017 | Life Sciences
26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.06.2017 | Information Technology