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Getting the Youth of Today Involved in Public Transportation for Tomorrow
International NGOs are focusing more and more on bringing youth into the dialog on sustainable development. Photo by European Youth Forum.

International NGOs are focusing more and more on bringing youth into the dialogue on sustainable development. Photo by European Youth Forum.

Informed and engaged young people are key to moving transportation issues forward, bringing future advocates, citizens and practitioners into the next wave of transportation issues and smart transportation planning.

This is especially important considering that the majority of youth – 85 percent – lives in developing countries. They will be the ones to face the impacts of poor planning for cities. Youth are more mobile and less likely to have the funds to purchase a car. Thus, it’s critical to have this population engaged in sustainable transportation. The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) is working to promote the links between youth and public transportation.  The organization says:

Young people are heavily dependent on public transport, it is often their only way to reach school, working places, sports facilities and any other locations where they live and build their future. And through their views, we can predict how public transport will evolve.

UITP is also supporting Youth Parliaments around the world where young people, aged 15 to 24, are invited to speak at events and act as formal ambassadors.

Increasingly, through the internet, video, shared photo sites like Flickr and Facebook, youth have more opportunities to develop their own voice, speak their concerns and find a forum to participate.

A group called Youth For Public Transit (Y4PT)  is using new media to engage young people from all over the world in “urban issues related to mobility.”  As a youth network, Y4PT shares information and experiences as to how to promote  sustainable urban mobility.  The organization is run by young people from all over the world and aims to increase the participation of youth in public transportation, foster the exchange of ideas and experiences, promote mutual understanding among young people and active citizenship and solidarity. The organization has participated in forums and events in Vienna, Montreal, Guadalajara, and in the future, Dubai. They are also hosting a photography and video contest for youth to share their observations and thoughts on public transportation. You can view some of the images on their site.

Y4PT has another interesting message: the traditional association between driving a car and being independent is fairly common, but for today’s youth, the freedom and fun of the open road doesn’t exist.  Overcrowded streets and the environmental and financial burdens of car ownership are propelling different lifestyle choices for young people. (We recently wrote about the changing paradigm of car ownership among people in their 20s).  A video on Y4PT’s site geared towards young people advertises public transportation as something “cool” that brings people together and provides a sense of belonging, allows people to “keep living” while commuting (i.e. read, talk, listen to iPods) and improves the envir0nment and quality of life.  The video also shows futuristic buses, cars that can carry bikes, elevated trains and restaurants on wheels, implying that innovation and change lie with mass transit, not the automobile.

Organizations are increasingly directing efforts towards opportunities for youth engagement.  In January 2010, the first World Youth Meeting for a Sustainable Future was held in Italy. And the European Youth Forum is an important body for youth involvement in policy, advocacy and education. Transportation Alternatives, a biking and pedestrian advocacy organization based in New York City, also funds youth advocates for a car-free Prospect Park (the largest park in Brooklyn.)

Young people are highly connected as witnessed by Y4PT’s flash mob in nine cities scattered around the globe. The concept was to “make public transportation feel like home.”  Young people experienced their respective cities’ form of mass transportation by eating breakfast and wearing pajamas.

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