The “mystery factor” driving faster patronage growth on public transport may be Gen Y’s enthusiasm for staying connected through smartphones. Speaking to a reporter from The West Australian last week, Professor Peter Newman argued that previous generations found freedom and flexibility through the car, but generation Ys find freedom and flexibility by staying connected to friends, family and workplaces through information devices like laptops or iPhones (H/T Human Transit).
He went on to say: “They can stay connected on a bus or a train. They can bring the office with them. They can bring their study with them. They can’t if they’re driving”. The same news report also quotes a spokesperson from WA’s Public Transport Authority who says commuters aged between 18 and 25 years now make up 35% of all train users and 40% of all bus users, up from 30% and 38% respectively last year. As this same age group constitutes just 13% of all Australians aged over 17 years, that’s a phenomenal set of numbers.
Frankly, I’m a little sceptical about the claim that the patronage share of trains in Perth has risen five percentage points in just one year, but since I can’t find any other relevant information on the age profile of public transport users, I’ll (conditionally) go with it. However I’m in no way sceptical of the proposition that new technologies make public transport more attractive than it used to be. Like reading before it, the mobile phone was a big step forward in the 90s and now 3G means travellers can do even more things on the train or bus. Bring on free wi-fi – I hear even some stations on Sydney’s otherwise sad and sorry rail system have this facility.
I’m not convinced, though, that access to communication and entertainment technologies is the potent driver of young adult patronage that Professor Newman takes it to be. A much more likely driver, I think, is Gen Y’s falling interest in cars. It seems eminently plausible that if young adults aren’t driving as much as previous generations then they’re likely to be using public transport more. This is a topic I’ve discussed before in more detail, but in summary there is a range of reasons why members of Gen Y (born between 1982 and 2001) are driving less than previous generations.
A 110-square-mile, windswept outcrop of bald rock overlooking the raging north Atlantic, off Newfoundland, Fogo is home to 2,700 fishermen or descendants of, and a considerably larger population of gannets whose shrill cries provide a constant soundtrack.
This is life right on the edge. Indeed the Flat Earth Society considers Fogo Island one of the four corners of a flat earth.
It's also the least likely place you'd think of finding members of a cutting-edge international art scene. But that's exactly who's coming to Fogo now.
By all accounts, traffic should be going in the other direction: for centuries the inhabitants of Fogo lived between wind and waves in search of cod – until a 1992 cod moratorium strangled their livelihood and the small island suffered as the population moved away.
But that's forgetting the enterprising nature and deep sense of home of Fogo's people. And the equally deep pockets of one islander – a dot.com success story who came back with an experiment to give Fogo a future, by using its past.