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Ohio Colleges Going the Extra Mile to Provide Alternative Transit

PHOTO: Many Ohio colleges and universities are making bike-sharing and public transit options easier to access for students. Photo credit: cohdra/morguefile.
PHOTO: Many Ohio colleges and universities are making bike-sharing and public transit options easier to access for students. Photo credit: cohdra/morguefile.
December 5, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The millennial generation is driving less often than older generations, and experts say colleges and universities in Ohio are stepping up to meet the demand for alternative transit options.

Phineas Baxandall, a senior analyst for the Ohio Public Interest Research Group, said schools are making it easier to get around campus without a car by improving pedestrian walk and bike paths, and offering buses and vehicle-sharing.

"There's places where your student ID can double as a transit pass or can get you access to bikes," he said. "There's places where students run their own bike co-ops where you can build your own bike from donated parts. That happens in Oberlin University."

Case Western, Kent State and Ohio State are among the universities offering discounted public-transit fares to students. Baxandall said these trends are consistent around the nation, as universities increase access to local transit programs, bike- and ride-sharing.

As the younger generation moves into adulthood, Baxandall said, they'll likely continue their transit preferences. He added that it's something cities need to keep in mind.

"One way that increasingly communities are trying to recruit and be those economic centers," he said, "are being a place where millennials want to come because they don't have to rely on a car."

According to the National Association of Realtors, 59 percent of young adults with college degrees believe it should be a "high priority" for their state government to provide alternatives to driving. But Baxandall said it's a message that is not being heard.

"If you look at Ohio's transportation investments, you wouldn't know that there's been such a big shift if you look at their priorities," he said, "It's mainly about highway expansion, and that's kind of out of keeping with the trends that seem to be leading toward the future."

Between 2001 and 2009, he said, the average number of miles driven by those 16 to 34 years old dropped by 23 percent.

The PIRG research is online at ohiopirg.org and the Realtor report is at realtor.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH