Category Archives: youth

GP-RED think tank — school travel and too much organized play for kids

I spent Monday at the GP-RED Think Tank schedule. The topic from my 20 minute talk that seemed to gain the most traction related to school travel. The basic point is that we can talk until we are blue in the face about getting kids to walk to school and the need for safe routes to school programs. But, as is becoming increasingly realized, the open enrollment issue is really shooting such programs in the foot. Kids don’t go to the neighborhood school; they go to school across town–too far to bike or walk.

People love talking about this matter. It merges travel (which anyone can relate to), kids (people love talking about children), schools (parents are manic about discussing the ins and outs of school involvement), and the environment (which everyone supposedly cares about, but really only nominally).

Here is another big take-away message from the spending the day at the “Think Tank.” Kids—and parents for that matter—are spending too much time in organized play. Parents have to supervise. Kids lose the ability to do whatever. They now get bored too easily in the absence of organized play and don’t know how to address the squabbles internally, always resulting in turning to an adult for this. We need to bring back entire afternoons hanging out on the block with no agenda.

Maybe youth is not all wasted?

One of the best scenes from the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is when George is flirting with Mary after the dance:

(George): What do you want, Mary? Do you want the moon? If you want it, I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down for you. Hey! That’s a pretty good idea! I’ll give you the moon, Mary. 
(Mary Hatch Bailey): I’ll take it! Then what? 
(George): Well, then you can swallow it, and it’ll all dissolve see, and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair… am I talking too much? 
(Man on Porch): Why don’t you kiss her instead of talking her to death? 
(George): You want me to kiss her, huh? 
(Man on Porch): Ah, youth is wasted on the wrong people! 

(Clarence): One man’s life touches so many others, when he’s not there it leaves an awfully big hole. 

Well, maybe youth is not all wasted? At least when it comes to travel.
For many years we have been urging the need for research efforts to focus on (a) the youth as an important travel submarket, and (b) the process by which youth learn their travel habits. We are now seeing a slew of efforts tackling the first; I don’t see too much activity about the latter.

A new report released by the CoPIRG Foundation demonstrates that Coloradans and Americans have been driving less since the middle of last decade. The report, Transportation and the New Generation: Why Young People are Driving Less and What it Means for Transportation Policy, shows that young people in particular are decreasing the amount they drive and increasing their use of transportation alternatives

The “analysis” is pretty straightforward, relying exclusively on descriptive statistics from elsewhere. It is pretty aggregate in its geographical focus. I am not sure I believe all they say about why these patterns will persist (people do regress). But, it does hint at a consistent story: maybe youth is not all wasted; if patterns continue, we might see a big hole in VMT?