Teenage Attitudes and Perceptions Regarding Transit Use

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Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - surveys, planning - marketing/promotion, planning - marketing/promotion, planning - education, ridership - mode choice, ridership - perceptions, ridership - attitudes, ridership - young people


Adolescents, Attitudes, Education, Fare reduction, Focus groups, Market research, Marketing, Miami (Florida), Mobility, Mode choice, Passes (Transportation), Promotion, Public transit, Recommendations, Surveys, Tampa (Florida), Transit operating agencies


This study aimed to provide an understanding of teenagers' attitudes and perceptions towards public transit, within the context of the wider issue of teenage mobility. The study found that there are a number of significant restrictions on teenage mobility in the United States, including driving age regulations, travel costs, parental safety concerns, and low-density urban development patterns that limit teenagers' ability to walk or cycle. Analysis of eight focus group sessions conducted with samples of teenagers and parents from Miami and Tampa identified a series of mobility themes that play a major role in determining teenagers' mode choice decisions: safety, cost, access/availability, reliability, and image. On many of these issues, the private vehicle was viewed as having a distinct advantage over transit. However, some areas were identified where transit can hold a strategic advantage, either from a teenage or parental viewpoint. These potential strategic advantages were used to develop marketing messages, such as highlighting to teenagers the independent mobility benefits offered by using transit, while pointing out to parents the time they could save by letting their children ride transit instead of transporting them themselves. Certain advantages over the private auto were also observed on the issues of cost and safety, which were used to develop additional marketing messages. A survey of transit agencies across the country was conducted to assess industry experience with promoting transit to teenagers. This survey showed that there were three main promotional program types: educational programs, reduced fares and transit passes, and that many agencies used a combination of these three types in their promotions. Major obstacles identified in marketing to teenagers included addressing transit's negative social image, gaining the cooperation of the school system, gaining the cooperation of the parents, and retaining the program budget. The study concluded with a series of recommendations for transit agencies interested in implementing, or improving, programs that target teenage riders: (i) Track Teenage Ridership, (ii) Explore External Funding Options, (iii) Form Partnerships with the School System and Other Local Organizations, (iv) Use a Strategic Approach to Developing Marketing Messages, and (v) Consider Teenage Mobility Needs in Transit Service Provision.