The Vermont Transportation Board today released its Annual Report, which documents the comments the Board collected during a recent series of public forums that focused on the Transportation needs and wants of young adults.
After hearing from some 250 Vermonters during a series of eight public forums that were held during the fall of 2014, the report documents that young adults are not only dissatisfied with Vermont’s transportation services, but believe that the state’s limited public transportation options combined with its limited number of bicycle-and-pedestrian facilities is causing many of their peers to either move away from the Green Mountains or not consider Vermont when choosing a place to live, work and raise a family.
“Vermont’s population of young adults has been on the decline for decades now,” said Transportation Board Chairman Nick Marro. “The reasons for this trend are multifaceted, but somewhere within this decline lies a transportation nexus. Understanding how young people view the current state of Vermont’s transportation system, and understanding how those views differ from previous generations, is one of the keys to being able to properly plan for the state’s future.”
Vermont for years now has seen a steady decline of young adults. The number of Vermonters between the ages of 20-39 shrunk 20 percent – a fall from 187,576 to 149,831 – over the 20-year period between 1990 and 2010, according to U.S. Census data. Adding significance to this trend is that Vermont’s overall population grew by 11 percent – from 562-758 to 625,741 – over this same time period.
A groundbreaking national study published in late 2012 showed that today’s young adults drive motor vehicles significantly less than did young adults of similar ages just one generation ago. The study documented that from 2001 to 2009, the annual vehicle miles traveled by a 16-34 year-old decreased 23 percent from 10,3000 to 7,900. Over this same time period, these same young people took 24 percent more bicycle trips, walked to destinations 16 percent more often, and traveled 40 percent more miles by public transportation.
“Vermont does not always follow national trends, so the Transportation Board wanted to talk with young Vermonters to learn whether their transportation behavior was in synch with their national counterparts,” Marro said. “What young Vermonters told us is that they would like to live a lifestyle that is not dependent on an automobile, but that Vermont’s lack of car-free alternatives not only makes that impossible, but also deters many of their peers from considering Vermont as a place live and work.”
The Board’s report details the reasons young people find Vermont transportationally unattractive. These reasons include a lack of public transportation that both runs at convenient times and stops at the destinations they need to reach, a lack of safe and well-lit bicycle facilities such as dedicated bike lanes in downtown areas or bike paths that reach other destinations, and a lack of well-maintained and well-lit pedestrian facilities like sidewalks that connect their homes to nearby restaurants and shops.