Gen Z: Getting from Point A to Point B
At San Jose State University, more than 50 graphic design students spent a semester focused on the topic of transportation. Here’s some lessons learned from their creative work — and life experience.
I am a graphic design instructor at San Jose State University. One of our core classes requires students to choose a complex topic and wrap their minds around it to develop a public awareness campaign. The student body is incredibly diverse, and that diversity is also reflected in their modes of transportation. San Jose has a reputation as a “commuter school”with the majority of its 30,000 students traveling long distances—often driving 1 or even 2 hours in traffic—to get to class. However many students use skateboards or electric scooters to zip from nearby apartments or dorm rooms to their classroom.
As a designer with a deep background in transportation who works with numerous transit agencies, I recognize that public transit is struggling to attract and retain younger riders. This class presented a mini-lab where I could gain insight into what makes Gen-Z commuters tick. Here are some takeaways:
- Many have an uncomfortable relationship with the automobile. They may fantasize about a dream car and the prestige it communicates, but recognize that cars are a major source of CO2 emissions that are a primary cause of climate change.
- Most don’t want to responsibility and expense of owning a car. However many students are reliant on the car to get them to school and work. They wish there was an alternative.
- Buses are just not cool. Sitting in close proximity to other riders in a slow, noisy bus is not an appealing transportation option.
- A huge obstacle to transit, not just among students but unversally, is the “last mile”. How do people connect from a transit stop or station to their end destination? Electric scooters, skateboards, folding bikes are a possible solution. Ridesharing is also an alternative but not always an affordable option for students.
- Where is the innovation? Students know that emerging technologies such as self-driving cars or high-speed trains promise huge shifts in how we get around. When will these be accessible and affordable to the general public?