Generation Y mobilities through the lens of energy cultures: a preliminary exploration of mobility cultures
Stephenson, Janet; Hopkins, Debbie
Automobility has dominated transport patterns in developed countries for over 50 years (Urry, 2004 and Geels et al., 2011). However recent data have indicated changing patterns of generation Y mobility behaviours (Delbosc and Currie, 2013; Grimsrud and El-Geneidy, 2014). In countries including the USA, Canada, the UK, Sweden, Norway, South Korea, Japan and Australia, research has revealed that generation Y (born between 1980 and the early 2000s, also known as the millennial generation) are less likely to learn to drive, own cars, or drive as much as earlier generations (Sivak and Schoettle, 2011, Davis et al., 2012, Kuhnimhof et al., 2012, Delbosc and Currie, 2013 and Van Der Waard et al., 2013). However this pattern is not universal – a ‘business-as-usual’ pattern has been reported in Finland, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands (Sivak and Schoettle, 2011). Changes to generation Y’s mobility have potentially significant implications. High levels of dependence on private vehicles have resulted in many negative externalities. In relation to environmental stressors, road transport is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (Chapman, 2007 and Sims and Schaeffer, 2014). But transport modes do not create equal externalities, and CO2 emissions in some modes are rising faster than the global average. For example, in the decade from 1990 global CO2 emissions increased by 13%, yet the CO2 emissions from road transport and aviation each grew by 25% (Fuglestvedt et al., 2008). Road transport is the largest transport-related contributor to positive climate forcing (warming) (Fuglestvedt et al., 2008) and accounts for 81% of total energy use by the transport sector (Chapman, 2007), with consequences for global climate change, energy security and environmental sustainability. Other negative impacts arising from the system of automobility include public health and social exclusion. The generation Y mobility changes could present an opportunity to facilitate a transition towards a more sustainable mobility paradigm ( Banister, 2008). This cohort recently overtook the Baby Boomer generation as the largest generation in the USA and Australia ( Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011 and Lachman and Brett, 2011), and their attitudes and behaviours towards mobility could play an influential role in reducing transport-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Furthermore, as young adults account for the majority of road accident fatalities ( Peden et al., 2004), a rise in average driver age could result in a reduction of road traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities. From a geographical perspective, the evident variability in national, regional and local generation Y mobility practices suggests that the factors that are driving change are not universal and thus warrant much closer investigation. Generation Y or the ‘digital native’ (Prenksy, 2001) have grown up around unprecedented technological developments, and radical social, technological and economic changes have re-shaped their mobility-based opportunities. Examples include the way in which low-cost air travel has provided easy access to distant destinations, and the growth of high-speed internet which has supported the burgeoning of virtual meetings, reducing the need to travel to interact with others outside the home environment in some circumstances, whilst also expanding social networks and facilitating mobilities in others. However in a number of developed countries, actual levels of mobility, measured as the number of trips undertaken ( Pooley et al., 2005), have been static since the 1970s. This suggests that the structure of mobility – the purposes for which people travel – has changed little over this time.
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Keywords: generation Y; Millennial generation; Energy cultures; Energy cultures framework; mobility culture; Automobility
Research Type: Journal Article