News / Vancouver

Transit plebiscite highlights generational divide in Metro Vancouver

The transit plebiscite offers Baby Boomers an opportunity to leave a legacy behind for the following generations, according one prominent urban planner.

BTAworks’ Andy Yan recently crunched the numbers and was taken aback by the stark generational differences in how Metro Vancouver residents commute to work.

Using data from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, Yan found that just 10 per cent of Baby Boomers (age 45-65) rely on public transit to get to work.

In comparison, almost one in three millennials (15-30) and one in five Generation Xers (30-45) use public transportation to get to work.

“It’s fascinating. I didn’t expect those generational lines to be so distinct,” said Yan, who believes demographics will play a pivotal role in the plebiscite’s outcome.

“Will millennials and Xers come out to support this vote?” asked Yan. “Not just that, but one of the factors is the question of whether boomers will use the vote as a way to leave behind a lasting legacy.”

Yan says transportation trends in the region have been changing for some time.

Overall, 20 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents – driven by the younger generations – rely on public transit to get to work.

That’s more than any other Canadian city and more than all major American cities along the West Coat.

“Only San Francisco (15 per cent) comes close,” Yan said.

The plebiscite vote also comes at a time when more young people – those that seem to have most to gain from public transportation improvements – are going car-less.

According to data released by the Metro Vancouver Regional District last year, 55 per cent of 20- to 24-year-olds have a driver’s licence, compared to 70 per cent in 2004.

Yan said the increased public transit use and corresponding decline in licensing can both be seen as “successes in regional planning.”

Continuing those trends in a growing region with new investment and infrastructure, the “Yes” supporter says, increases the younger generations’ ability to tap into better jobs and opportunities.

“My perspective is that this plebiscite is all about mobility; how to get from point A to point B,” he said. “To me, transit is more than just getting around the region, it’s an economic ladder.”

The mail-in plebiscite, on a new 0.5 per cent regional sales tax to fund transit improvements, runs to May 29.

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