The world is changing and so are urban commuters.
Young people are putting off their driver’s license and more people are using public transport.
Has public transport gotten that much better, or is there something else?
The percentage of 18-24-year old’s who own a driver’s license has decreased from 89 to 78 percent in the last seven years. At the same time, the usage of public transport has increased from 10,9 billion per year to 11,4 billion. A staggering increase of 500 million a year.
So, what has changed?
There are a few ways to look at this trend.
One good way is to look at how the path the young person is changing. A second way is to look at how the manner young people are leading those paths, has changed.
Young people are moving to the cities and are studying for longer. The percentage of the German Urban population has increased from 49,1% to 54% between the years 2005 and 2015. And the number of students enrolled at university has increased from 2.499.409 to 2.868.222 between 2012 and 2019.
As young people move to the cities and decide to study for a masters instead of taking on a job, there goes their need for a car. They can use easily accessible and widespread public transport to sustain their no-income student lives.
If before a young person was more likely to learn their craft early with an Ausbildung, move out of their parent’s house and buy a car to drive to work, today the young person is in the city, living in a WG, taking years to decide what exactly he or she thinks will be the best work path for them.
One can think of this trend as a consequence of the adult life being postponed. And so, the need for a car.
A second good way is to acknowledge a change of values. And with that, a change in how young people choose to lead their lives.
20 years ago, a young man might have wanted a car to leave his house, to be free and independent, to show the world he is making it on his own and how well he is doing so. The car was not only a way to get from a to b, but a pillar around which one could build his or her identity.
In a world of smartphones, social media, ubers and e-bikes, this is for many no longer the case
Think about a young person today going to work.
She is not in a car.
She is on her phone on a train. Or on her phone on a bike, waiting for the light to turn green.
She expresses and builds her identity around her phone, her social media accounts, her Instagram posts.
She is environmentally conscious and knows what traffic jams mean to the environment.
And when she needs to be someplace on short notice or is coming home late at night, she can just call an Uber.
What used to be the car is today the mobile phone. It’s what new version of the I-phone one possesses, the number of followers on social media, and the ratings on one’s uber app that defines a person’s status and shapes how she or he lives her life. Instead of showing off her new car, she posts a video on Instagram of her latest trip to New Zealand.
Other statistics that suggest the fall of the car as a status symbol and the roles it played on the life of the young person, is the difference between the number of driver’s licenses for males and females.
The graph shows how males have been leading the charge. If cars are losing their place as a status symbol, as the recent poll by wirkaufendeinauto.de suggests (0,98% of Germans see a car as a status symbol) it is easy to imagine that males would be the first ones to care less for it. More concerned with their economic status and how it shows off, they would be the first to change their investment from a car to the new iPhone 7.
But do cars have a future amongst the young?
Yes, as they become electric, sustainable and cheap, we can expect them to come back. Maybe not taking the same role they did before, but something new that the future will define. Possibly simply as a practical means of transportation, as the phone becomes simply a practical means of communication, and the new thing comes about and changes how young people lead their lives.