I want my MMT! (Multi-Modal Transportation)

There has been some hubbub made lately of Chevrolet’s hiring of Ross Martin, MTV’s executive vice-president of branding. This move explains why a poorly constructed Chevy compact car has been made to hang out with OK Go and then thrown out of a plane, although not for the reasons that I would have guessed. It’s all part of a bigger wave of revelations being brought to focus by sales figures and surveys. Millenials just don’t care about cars as much as they used to – GM’s cars especially. To make things worse, they actually want to live in dense mixed-use neighborhoods. The rate of driver’s licenses among the 19-and-younger set is dropping quickly, and a full 46% of 18-24 year olds would rather forgo a car than internet access. I’m actually surprised that number isn’t higher.

Let’s sell some cars!

All of this makes me wonder about something that I spend far too much time wondering about: the character and fate of my generation. Some have speculated that our disinterest in cars is due to the economy that we have come of age in to, and we will mount our parent’s Expeditions and Suburbans as soon as is fiscally possible. I tend to take a more optimistic opinion of my peers, meaning of course that I like to think they have the same opinions I do. This, unfortunately, will never be fully true. However, I have speculated that we will be fundamentally shaped by the economy we have inherited, much like the Greatest Generation was shaped by the Great Depression. I believe, for one, that our entire careers will be tinged by a cautious eye on the back door. We have started our careers as temps and contract workers and without even the slightest hope of benefits. We will never feel completely secure in our jobs, and the way things are going maybe we shouldn’t. Plan B will always be hovering in the back of our minds.

Whether or not this is a good trait to have is debatable, but we are being shaped in other ways as well. We are realizing, I hope, that the suburban model of living that we were raised on is completely and utterly, ridiculously unsustainable. I don’t mean unsustainable in the environmental way, although that is also true, I mean unsustainable in the ancient Rome way. I believe (hope) that in twenty years we will look back on suburban sprawl as a national embarrassment on the same level as other things being debated in politics currently, although I’ll keep try to keep this post as apolitical as possible and pass on listing them here.

One good development though, is that we will need other ways to get around if we don’t care much about those pay-check guzzling, time-wasting, outdoors-blocking, value-depreciation mobiles that GM is trying to sell us – and get around we will! Commuting by bicycle is becoming more and more popular, proximity to transit is a top real-estate concern among Millenials, being able to walk to work is a status symbol, and trains are cool again! Real estate developers are taking note. Mixed-use developments are exploding in popularity, some of course are better than others. I like to think this is something that will stick as Millenials come to love the amenities and quality of life afforded by mixed-use and high-density living. Hopefully, with the right mix of smart development and political pressure, we will succeed in reversing the damaging policies and reckless growth of the 20th century.

Here’s to hoping, and if you have time, share your first-car story with Subaru! (If you’re in the club, that is.)

This isn’t so hard, is it?

Nice Ride MN sets an example for the nation

Bike sharing seems like it’s finally catching on in the States. While we don’t have the stomach for something as radical as Paris’ Vélib’ bike share program, the Twin Cities are among the first markets in the country to roll out a successful public / private bike share partnership. I couldn’t be more excited or proud of my hometown. Every time I see a bright green Nice Ride bike I get almost giddy. My girlfriend can attest.

Nice Ride MN works because it is pedestrian-focused (but why Nice Ride Minnesota, and not Nice Ride TC? We’re not biking to Bemidji!).  The program is targeted at subscription based short-term rentals. A daily rental will cost you $5, plus any extra fees you incur during the day. However, for a yearly rate of $60 you can use the bikes as many times as you want. Take a bike and go, as long as you return it to another station within a half hour. This is easy to do if you have a specific destination; there are Nice Ride stations all over Minneapolis and St. Paul, and they are quickly multiplying.

The target market for these bikes is the most exciting part of the program. They fit perfectly as the missing layer of urban living. A short bike ride from your apartment to the grocery store, or a quick trip to the nearest light rail stop is made so much easier with Nice Ride. Just leave the bike at the nearest station once you arrive. It’s a pleasant alternative to getting in your car, or a welcome option for someone without a car.

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