Over the last decade, an overwhelming amount of literature has been produced in the public transportation field regarding Millennials and the future of personal vehicle ownership, and therefore the future of Municipal Parking lots. Most of the research indicates that Millennials are generally less car-focused than previous generations, and their transportation behaviours continue to change in ways that ultimately reduce personal vehicle driving. There are plenty of reasons that have contributed to this ‘shift’ in behaviour, including: dependence on technology, socioeconomic contributors (delayed marriage, the Recession), and lifestyle preferences (Millennials tend to prefer walkable communities). Recent studies and dialogues surrounding Smart Cities suggest City Planners are beginning to ‘rethink parking…by getting rid of it.’ At the centre of the dialogue surrounding the future of parking in cities is an assumption that Millennials apprehensiveness to drive and own private vehicles. This will predict future travel behaviours by them, and generations to come.
Re-thinking parking by getting rid of it is not only short-sighted but does not fully take into consideration the travel patterns of Millennials. While some Millennials have certainly chosen to fore-go vehicle ownership, particularly in dense urban centres like downtown Toronto, Millennials surrounding the GTA in less dense cities, for example Mississauga, are still choosing to use a personal vehicle to move around.
While the technology surrounding self-driving cars is in place, and continues to evolve, the governing regulations surrounding self-driving cars are still in their infancy. Self-driving cars may eventually reduce parking demand considerably and will certainly change the way users pay for parking. It is reasonable that there be an emphasis on ensuring all future parking garages must be built in a manner that would allow for ‘future-proofing’ for self-driving cars, or to accommodate other uses if there is a drastic decrease in parked cars.
The future of Municipal Parking will rely heavily on being technologically integrated to have payment and spot vacancy information available on mobile apps. Millennials are more technologically savvy than the generations who have preceded them, and this is reflected in their consumer behaviours. Millennials are ultra-connected on their mobile devices, accessing virtually every facet of their life via their Smartphones, including banking, shopping, and social media. Given this interconnectedness, Millennials are increasing the demand for self-service apps. There is an expectation that transportation apps will assist them in planning their trip, paying their fares, and ultimately saving them time. Future parking solutions need to help facilitate these self-service transactions, from any device, for any customer ultimately helping to reduce gridlock and idling associated with searching for an available parking spot.
Integration of more Short-Term Spots
Millennials are no longer dependent on owning a car in order to get around and are utilizing alternatives such as Uber, Lyft and ridesharing at a higher rate than other generations. Integration of more short-term spots and the inclusion of parking areas for bikes, scooters, and other active transportation mobility devices is in order. Short-term spots will also help to achieve Municipal Parking objectives, including a higher turnaround rate over long-term full day spots. In addition, with the introduction of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) on the horizon, there will be an increased need for short-term spots, designed in a long-term way, thinking of the future of AVs and how they will likely be stored.
Millennials (those born between 1983 and 2000) are currently the largest generation in Canada and are approaching key life stage milestones. There are approximately 7.3 million Millennials in Canada, which represents about 20% of the total population. Academic research, survey results, and government data reference various factors that have recently contributed to a decline in driving among millennials. These factors include socioeconomic shifts, changes in consumer preferences, technological changes, efforts by governments/ colleges to limit youth driving, etc. Recent research suggests that compared to previous generations, millennials are delaying obtaining a driver’s licence, are less likely to own a car, are driving less, and are utilizing public transportation more than their parents.
Initial research on Millennial’s transportation choices are described with a broad brush: they are multimodal, urban, tech-savvy and are likely to advance a sustainable transportation future. Studies were conducted on Ontario university campuses, via market research web panels, or at train stations. These participants are more likely to be urbanites without the need for a personal vehicle. By contrast, studies that are conducted on a national level, tend to emphasize another theory, which indicates Millennials ‘left behind in the suburbs’ are either unable to afford personal car ownership, or, are reliant on a car to get around in the suburbs without sufficient transportation infrastructure.
Why are we looking at Millennials?
Millennials are not only the largest generation in Canada, but their travel behaviours will inevitably inform how people will travel in the future. In order to best predict how to navigate City infrastructure to accommodate these changing needs, we must study their current behaviours. As Millennials continue to age, and achieve key “adult” milestones, namely full-time employment and having children, their travel patterns will continue to evolve. In studying their behaviours as they age, it can help city-planners predict future transportation behaviours.
Millennials are notorious industry disruptors. This is based largely in the fact that Millennials are the early adopters of new technologies and practices. Millennials have constantly been on the forefront of adopting new technologies—smart phones, Uber, bike-sharing etc. Parking needs to be understood as an evolving service, and in order to continue attracting Millennials to parking services, there must be a technological driver.
Reasons for shifts
Suburban Vs. Urban:
There are two emerging narratives that describe millennials transportation habits. The first is a positive, optimistic view that describes millennials as extremely multimodal. According to this theory, millennials love cities, love being connected, are ambivalent about cars and embrace transport technologies. According to this theory, Millennials live in large cities, drive less, use public transport more, and embrace technology rather than cars. Many studies that rely on this theory were conducted in Europe, Australia, and Canada and focus on highly educated urban millennials. City planners often point to this theory to support a sustainable future, wherein the car ultimately becomes obsolete.
Not often touched upon by city planners is the parallel, yet more pessimistic view about millennials. These millennials, if carless, are simply reacting to difficult economic circumstances, which have shrunk their ability to own or lease a personal vehicle. This theory proposes that millennials are driving less primarily because of reduced incomes and a delay in traditional adult milestones (i.e.: marriage, having children). This group is most commonly associated with those in low-income groups, ethnic minorities, or recent migrants. These millennials are much more likely to aspire to car ownership, given they can afford a vehicle.
Now insert a third group into the conversation: Millennial Young Professionals in the Suburbs. This group is identified based on research conducted via Survey Monkey using LinkedIn data. This group can be defined by many typical millennial characteristics: they have pursued higher education, they live in multi-generational homes, but at the same time they are employed in well-earning full-time jobs. They are very likely to own a car. They may be multi-modal in their use of public transit and ride sharing options to get to social engagements, but they are very dependent on private vehicles, especially to get to work. In the Ontario context, this group is most likely to live in Mississauga, Brampton, Oakville, and beyond. When compared to their peers who live and work in in downtown Toronto, they are far more likely to have frequent access to a private vehicle and are very dependent on their cars.
In order to gauge the preferences of Urban (Toronto) vs Suburban (Mississauga, Brampton etc.) a simple survey was designed and distributed via LinkedIn. The obvious bias of the survey is that most respondents (89%) are working professionals. Therefore, this survey was helpful in determining the varying behaviours of young professionals in an urban centre vs. the suburbs. The survey was taken by individuals ranging from 20-40 years old. There was a total of 54 respondents. 65% of respondents were between 24-29.
Respondents were from a variety of regions in Ontario including Toronto (36%), Mississauga (19%), Brampton (10%), Oakville (4%), Waterloo (4%) and cities smaller than Waterloo (6%) and cities larger than Mississauga (22%). The major focus of this analysis will look at the difference in lifestyle preferences and values between those in Toronto vs. those in the Peel Region.
The vast majority (83%) of respondents report owning and/or having frequent access to a private vehicle at least 3 times a week. Those who do not have a private vehicle are more likely to live in Toronto. Toronto respondents were also more likely to utilize travel alternatives much more frequently than those in the suburbs. In fact, all respondents who reported using travel alternatives more than 5 times per week live in Toronto. This can be attributed to the fact that these Millennials are using transit and/or Uber to get to work, whereas their suburban counterparts are using ridesharing alternatives for social purposes.
Qualitative Feedback from Urban (Toronto) Millennials (Downtown Core):
The data collected indicates that Urban Millennials in the downtown core, with easy access to street cars, subways, and buses are far less likely to own a car when compared to those in Etobicoke, Scarborough, and the Peel Region.
The LinkedIn survey qualitative data was extremely insightful at gauging the patterns of urban vs. suburban millennials. In fact, the responses fit the theories surrounding millennials and car ownership nearly perfectly. Urban Millennials are the most likely to fit into the mould City Planners describe millennials as – multimodal, experience oriented, and valuing walkable communities. The following response from an individual in Toronto encapsulates the theory of Millennials as multimodal:
“There are so many options for transportation that don’t require me to own a car! Insurance, Parking and the cost of car ownership make it insane for me to even consider owning a car. I personally use Zipcar, Uber and the TTC.”
This respondent can navigate in Toronto without a personal vehicle. Given the expansive network of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), it is not unusual for urban millennials in downtown Toronto to forego car ownership. It is interesting to note that some respondents in Toronto do not currently own a vehicle due to financial pressures of living in the city, however, would like to own a vehicle in the future.
“Having the freedom to drive is important to me- but while living in Toronto it doesn’t make sense. I do plan, however, on owning a vehicle”
“I do not own a vehicle because of the cost of ownership while living in a big city. I pay high rent to live in downtown Toronto so that I can walk to work. I’d love to own a vehicle for weekend excursions or grocery shopping trips but to pay for parking at my condo and other places in and around Toronto is not feasible on top of paying rent”
These respondents highlight another interesting trend. While they may not currently own vehicles, they do aspire to car ownership in the future. Because millennials are delaying key milestones (i.e.: marriage and having children) they are therefore able to postpone car ownership. Millennials in Toronto without access to a personal vehicle are most likely to be under 30 years old. While these Millennials currently have many travel alternatives open to them, which allow them to forego car ownership, they do indicate that they do desire to own a vehicle in the future. However, when compared to their Mississauga and Brampton peers, it becomes evident that these millennials are not able to push off car ownership until they reach key ‘adult milestones.’
Qualitative feedback from Young Professionals in the Suburbs:
There are clear geographic and transportation network differences to take into consideration when comparing Millennials in Toronto, specifically the downtown core, to those in the Peel region. Those in the Peel Region do not have access to streetcars and subways, although they do have access to City buses and GO Trains. The majority of those surveyed do not rely on buses to get to work because of the long wait times associated with them. Instead, the vast majority (95%) have access to a private vehicle, whether it is owned, leased, or shared. That is not to say that these Millennials would not utilize a network such as the TTC, but that the current infrastructure is lacking.
These qualitative responses highlight Millennials as diverse. A large portion of Millennials are multimodal, and very likely to utilize transportation and ride sharing options. From the data gathered, these individuals are most likely to live in an urban centre, such as Toronto. Those in the suburbs (for example, Peel Region) are more likely to own and or/have access to a private vehicle, but the reasoning varies based on the individual. These individuals may desire to be multimodal, but because of their location, income, or lack of access to quick transportation, will choose to drive a personal vehicle. Young Professionals in the Suburbs are willing to incur the extra costs associated with car ownership for the convenience of personal vehicle ownership to navigate their busy lives. In addition, these Young Professionals surveyed indicate having a personal vehicle is less costly than making frequent (more than 5/ week) Uber trips, given the length of their daily commutes. While these Millennials do use Uber, particularly to socialize (68%), this point is often overlooked in studies conducted by Ridesharing Companies. It is important to note these Young Professionals are using ridesharing alternatives to socialize, as a compliment rather than alternative to personal vehicle ownership.
What does this mean for Municipal Parking?
Simply—Millennials are still driving. Not all Millennials are as multimodal as City Planning data may suggest. In the context of Ontario, those in downtown Toronto best fit this description. These Millennials are very likely to live and work in downtown Toronto and live close (within 500m) of a TTC spot (whether it is a subway, streetcar, or bus route). It is easier for them to navigate the city without a personal vehicle. In addition, the high cost of living in downtown Toronto acts as a barrier for these Millennials to own a personal vehicle. The counterpart to these Millennials is those in the suburbs, who weigh the convenience of a car over the wait times associated with buses in the suburbs. While there is no immediate need to re-think or eliminate parking in the suburbs, there are certainly modernizations that could be applied to current operations.
Millennials & Technology:
The past decade has seen a technology revolution, characterized by a hyper-increase in the use of mobile, location, and internet connected devices such as smart phones and tablets. The services available on smartphone technology-Uber, Lyft, Rideshare and Bikeshare, are disproportionately adopted and embraced by younger people. Initial studies hypothesized that the availability of technology may reduce the number of young people who would feel compelled to get a driver’s licence. However, studies have found that the rise of the internet and mobility has been positively correlated with higher rates of youths getting their licence. However, this does not co-relate with car ownership. Millennials are still less likely than their parents to own a car.
Integrating Parking and Technology allows for several customer advantages, particularly regarding trip planning and convenient payment. Providing real-time public transportation data on a smartphone device allows for convenience and time saved when travelling. Millennials have a strong value for mobile connectivity and real-time information. Future parking solutions must embrace technology in order to be competitive with other travel services that can be planned, paid for, and accessed on mobile devices. In order to adapt to this rapidly changing ecosystem, Municipal Parking must meet the current needs of today (mobile integration, EV charging stations, short-term parking spots) while preparing for a future that may look drastically different than today (designing parking structures with convertibility in mind).
Deloitte has forecasted that by 2040, more than half the miles traveled in the US could occur in shared autonomous vehicles. While the timing and impact of these trends are uncertain, there may be a lessened demand for parking. However, this is more likely to occur in dense urban areas that are well served by public transit and other mobility options, which allow for the substitution of personal vehicles. Ultimately, across the board, experts are forecasting an increased need for pick-up/ drop-off zones, short term parking spaces, and electric vehicle charging stations.
Applying Lessons Learned of Industry Disruptors:
Millennials are moving a transportation disruption, utilizing ride sharing, car sharing, bike sharing in a conjunction with public transportation networks. There are several reasons to explain this shift of millennials favouring ride sharing to car ownership, which include, but are not limited to reduced costs, shorter wait times, overall experience, and convenience. Millennials are most likely to utilize ridesharing apps, such as Uber, when socializing.
When thinking of the Future of Parking, we should apply the lessons learned from the other industry disruptors, namely Uber. Millennials embrace Uber mostly for the ease of use, short waiting times, efficiency, and reduced transportation costs. When integrating parking technology, it will be important to remember these as a best practice.
• Ease of use: Apps allow for immediate information to be shared with our Customers. If our Apps are fully integrated with existing parking infrastructure (i.e.: can highlight which spots are available), there is an extra incentive to utilize Municipal Parking. In addition, the ability to pay for parking fees online removes the extra step of rummaging for change to park for a short period of time.
• Reduced transportation costs: As Municipal Parking continues to encourage a quick turnover of spots, there should be a financial incentive to short-term parking. Shorter term parking should be less expensive than those who are parking for more than one hour. This will encourage not only use of Municipal facilities, but also encourage short-term customers.
There is certainly no immediate need to begin thinking about eliminating parking in cities. Millennials, especially those in the suburbs, are still reliant on their cars to navigate quickly. While they may also use travel alternatives, the majority are still reliant on a personal vehicle for most of their personal travel, especially to work. However, as Cities move forward and begin to re-imagine parking solutions, there are various things to be considered. At the forefront, is an immediate mobile solution. Millennials expect immediate customer service via their Smartphones. They are experience oriented and are more likely to use a service when there is a mobile option available which will help them plan and pay. In addition, from a design point of view, garages must be thought of differently. It is simply not enough to have an abundance of spaces; spaces must be well thought out and work to serve the demand of a changing generation. There must be an increased integration of short-term spots and CarShare options as well as an opportunity to charge electronic vehicles. All future infrastructures must be designed ensuring flexibility in the future to accommodate the future of not only the vehicle but quickly changing consumer preferences. ν
Editors note: This article is an excerpt from White Paper: Millennials & The Future of Municipal Parking, written by Michelle Di Fiore, Business Analyst, Municipal Parking at the City of Mississauga.
For the complete paper, including all references and works cited,
visit https://canadianparking.ca/publications/ or contact the
author directly a 905-615-3200 ext. 4729 or email