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South Salt Lake Journal

Inexpensive youth transit pass well suited for Gen Z ‘mobility culture’

Jun 20, 2019 03:14PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

Media from Buzzfeed to ThinkGeek have listed articles about the coolest things to buy costing less than $50.

Utah Transit Authority is bucking to get on the list. 

For $49, parents can gift their children a summer’s worth of transit. 

The UTA Summer Youth Pass runs through the end of August and includes UTA’s suite of transit services, including the FrontRunner commuter rail system spanning a nearly 90-mile corridor and covering four counties; the TRAX light rail system; the bus network of 400-plus regular and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses, and even the S-Line modern trolley in Sugar House and South Salt Lake.

UTA’s pitch to youth

UTA is pitching the 2019 Summer Youth Pass as a “Rider’s License,” with the theme “Summer Adventures Await.”

The “license,” to someone under driving age and/or without a car, may, on its own, be appealing.

The concept of adventures, to almost everyone, definitely seems appealing. 

The transit organization kicked off the pass promotion with a press conference at none other than Lagoon—Farmington’s amusement park. High school students from as far as Riverton indicated leveraging their Summer Youth Pass to travel to and from the park all summer long. 

Others, including some students who work at Lagoon and commute from other areas, spoke to relying on UTA’s TRAX, FrontRunner and bus system as necessary for summer funds and even for college or other savings. 

Safe, timely summer adventuring

Veteran pass holder Madi Seegmiller, a senior at Riverton High School who has been actively using transit since she was 15, said last year she rode FrontRunner to and from Farmington, accessing the free shuttle to the 123-year-old Lagoon amusement park eight or nine times a summer.  

Other “adventures” (a word she, too, uses to describe her UTA traveling) Seegmiller routinely undertakes, with the help of UTA, include traveling to visit her brother in Provo and journeying to downtown Salt Lake to attend concerts. 

Each of those adventures has been much more enjoyable, thanks to UTA, she said.

Riding, not driving

She recalls heading to a downtown concert at the Eccles Theater, then seeing drivers figuratively fighting for parking, being “super grateful” that they had not driven. 

UTA has helped her be able to simultaneously meet curfew and maximize fun. While attending a sporting event in Utah County, she had to leave the game early, to make it home in time to meet parental time lines. Being able to ride FrontRunner, she said she experienced no gaps in seamlessly tracking the full game. 

“This is awesome!” she recalled feeling. “If I were driving, I wouldn’t have been able to make curfew and be able to watch the entire game.”

When asked if she feels safe accessing transit, Seegmiller almost doesn’t understand the question, as fear or concern do not seem to have been encountered. 

What she does note is feeling safe on transit and her mother feeling safe with her on transit. 

“Sometimes, my mom is weird about my driving on the freeway,” she said, noting that leveraging transit closes down concerns of the parental nature. “It’s a nice, safe way to get to places. I can go wherever I want in the valley.”

UTA’s pitch – to parents

Marci Seegmiller, Madi’s mother, considers the UTA Summer Youth Pass a blessing for not just her daughter, but for their whole family.

In addition to Madi, brother Jake, age 14, who will be a ninth-grader at Oquirrh Hills Middle School, regularly rides TRAX two or even three times a week to Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park for tennis lessons. 

“It’s so nice just to put him on there. I’ve always felt like it was pretty safe — I watch him to make sure he gets on, and then have him call me when he gets there.”

Once Jake arrives at the station, his father Chris, who works at Diathrive in Murray, shuttles him less than a mile to the courts, often watching his son practice. The two spend bonding time on the road back home. 

“It’s an awesome gift for parents,” Marci said. “It saves miles on their cars and a lot of driving time. If word got out to more parents, it would be good to have them feel comfortable and having more teenagers using transit.”

Madi perhaps makes an even more powerful pitch to parents to purchase Summer Youth Passes, when she admits she has been conducting a 15-minute phone interview with the City Journals whilst driving. 

Once outed, she said she pulled over, to conclude the interview.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, accounting for one in three teenage deaths. 

Per mile driven, teenage drivers are four times more likely to get into a car accident than older motorists. 

Teenage drivers are also the age group most likely to not wear a seat belt, making their injuries worse than those suffered by other drivers involved in accidents. 

Finally, per mile driven, teenage drivers are four times more likely to get into a car accident than older motorists.

The transit trend

According to the 2009 National Household Travel Survey, the average number of vehicle miles traveled—behind the wheels of cars—by young people age 16-34 dropped significantly, 23 percent per capita, between 2001-2009. 

The American Public Transportation Association reports that millennials (those born between 1980-1994) are more likely to use public transit than older adults and are more enthusiastic about doing so. 

But what about the youngest of young? That would be Generation Z (or Gen Z), the digitally native demographic group born between 1994 and 2010, which now accounts for about 24 percent of the world's population, or 1.8 billion people. Think tanks are theorizing that Gen Z may be ushering a new “mobility culture,” which rely on a variety of modality modes and who eschew cars. 

A 2019 report from global communications firm Allison+Partners indicates nearly 70 percent of eligible Gen Z respondents do not have their driver’s license and 30 percent of those who do not currently possess their driver’s license have no intention or desire to get one.

Madi said that when she suggests taking transit, versus driving, to friends at Riverton High School, their first response is shock or even mocking her, but that swiftly shifts to head-scratching, “Hmmn… that’s smart” responses.

At Lagoon, her favorite ride is a toss-up between the sassy rollercoasters Cannibal and Colossus. In day-to-day life? It just may be UTA’s choices, which she deems “Convenient… freedom… fun… friends,” and, as if on cue—“adventure.”