Happening Now

"If Millennials vote, then transit wins"

November 20, 2014

The midterm election saw several important transit ballot initiatives fail, and some commentators have pointed to low turnout by Millennials as the culprit. The argument is simple enough to understand:

  1. Young people are demanding more trains and transit, and their travel habits are changing how transportation officials are planning for the future; therefore
  2. Young people have the most to lose when, as a cohort, only 23% of them show up for midterm elections containing investment decisions which will shape transportation systems for the next 30 to 40 years.

There’s something to this. The stated preference of Millennials is clear: “more than half (54%) of Millennials surveyed say they would consider moving to another city if it had more and better options for getting around, and 66% say that access to high quality transportation is one of the top three criteria they would weight when deciding where to live.” If Millennials vote, then transit wins.

So it’s refreshing to see what another group of young people did in the days following the election.

Encouraged by NARP’s campaign to recruit the next generation of transportation leaders, student government associations at Sam Houston State University and the University of North Texas issued resolutions this month in support of expanded federal and state investment in a modern passenger rail system. The students rallied around Texas Central Railway’s privately planned Houston to Dallas service, in particular, as an example of the kind of world-class rail service that Americans will need to compete in a 21st century global economy. And the students that have stepped up have gotten involved for the simplest of reasons: they believe in the project’s potential.

“NARP is doing a great job communicating the work we’ve done, but I don't really need credit—I just want to see this train built,” said Drew Carson, a member of SHSU’s student government association. “It’s very exciting to be a part of something this big.”

[Read NARP’s full statement on resolutions passed by SH and UNT]

Older generations of policymakers also need to do some soul searching. There’s been too much focus on propping up aging and creaky systems, and not enough on truly transformational proposals. Whether it’s high speed trains or modern equipment for conventional services, the nation must think big if we are to restore America’s position as a leader in passenger rail.

“There’s been a lot of criticism about a lack of engagement among people under 30. But when we give young people a reason to become part of the conversation, we’ve seen the kind of enthusiasm and drive on display in the work done by these students,” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “What TCR has done is provide a compelling vision of the future. NARP is committed to carrying that vision to other parts of the country and building a coalition of Millennials to demand the world class rail system Americans deserve.”

For NARP’s Millenial campaign to have the reach it needs, we’ll need your generosity. If you’re interested in donating to keep our youth outreach going, contact Logan McLeod at[email protected], or by phone at 202-408-8362.