April 8, 2021

Gen Z’s vision for the future of mobility in a post-COVID world

With the pandemic limiting mobility, young urban dwellers are keen to change their mobility habits and, more generally, their lifestyles.

With the support of C2, Movin’On — the world’s leading ecosystem for sustainable mobility — led a new survey to understand how this unique health crisis leading to months of lockdown and restrictions has impacted young people’s mobility, desires and expectations. 

 

Gen Z envisions a new kind of mobility

Involving the younger generation is an essential part of Movin’On’s collective strategy. The qualitative survey, conducted by market research partner Kantar, focused on approximately 70 young, urban and environmentally committed students and working people aged 18-34 years old. The survey was conducted in Montreal, New York, Seattle, Paris, Nantes and Madrid during autumn 2020, after the first lockdown. 

The results of the survey constitute a trend book, which provides some key insights into better understanding the challenges of tomorrow’s mobility as seen by this demographic. For example, this grouping of young people see themselves as part of a new kind of post-COVID mobility. More pragmatic than idealistic, they do not reject any particular means of transportation and still dream of cars, as long as they are clean. 

Gen Z has adopted new mobility habits and intend to keep them, even if this means adapting their lifestyle. They want “hybrid mobility” where different modes of transportation, as well as work and private life, are no longer opposed. For this change to happen, they understand that companies and public authorities need to collaborate, and they intend to be part of this process.

 

Major insights emerged

The two regions selected for this survey, Europe and North America, represent geographies where the role of cars differs greatly, which has an impact on how their populations view mobility. Four major insights emerged:

 

1 – Gen Z is more pragmatic than idealistic

Refusing to reject any one means of transportation, including the car, they are the first truly multimodal generation. Committed, but not utopian, the young respondents seek first and foremost to meet their needs in terms of convenience and cost. 

They naturally value modes of transport that pollute less and are more inclusive. This means public transportation — even if they are not fully satisfied by the experience — and shared mobility. However, they remain just as attached to the idea of owning a car as previous generations, provided it is clean.

 

2 – COVID has accelerated chosen mobility, bike use, walking and clean cars

The protective reflexes that have emerged with COVID have not spared this generation — less out of fear for their own health than for the sake of more fragile loved ones. This has resulted in a return to individual modes of transportation and a growing mistrust of public transport.  

COVID has also been a trend accelerator with an increase in bike usage and walking, both of which have many arguments in their favour (e.g., they provide outdoor physical activity that is cheap and sustainable). Beyond the means of transportation, the pandemic has accelerated the transition to a less constrictive and more chosen kind of mobility. This means reconsidering going to the office every day, limiting unnecessary travel and living more locally.

 

3 – This generation wants to change things, without giving up the notion of pleasure

Today’s 18-34 year olds are in favour of living within a 15-minute radius of their home. But they still want to discover the world, albeit in a different way. By questioning the necessity of each trip, COVID has strongly influenced daily mobility. Young people want to free themselves from morning and evening mobility constraints, find a village lifestyle in their neighbourhood and be able to organize their daily life close to home.

In their mobility, as in their lifestyle, the notions of pleasure and meaning remain key. It is with the same mindset that they consider long-distance travel and want to continue travelling to discover the world. Their sustainable mentality will lead them to travel less often, but for longer trips. And they imagine “hybrid travel” where work and tourism are usefully mixed and enjoyed.

 

4 – Sustainable mobility is like climbing to the top of Everest: joining forces is key to reaching it

Young people expect a lot from public authorities, cities and companies in order to act together and accelerate change. This generation is ready to make many changes in the way it uses mobility. But when it comes to infrastructure, innovation, urban planning and safety, they feel powerless to act. They expect public and private stakeholders to mobilize and listen to them.

Expectations are different in Europe and North America with greater mistrust in Europe, especially in France, regarding the use of personal data and the choice of operators. They are especially worried about possible collaboration with American big tech companies. 

However, on both sides of the Atlantic, young people expect employers to get involved and promote a different kind of mobility for their teams including subsidies, working from home and shared infrastructures. This generation wants to be part of the change and will use all its influence to make things happen as citizens, employees, customers and mobility users.

 

 


Continuing the generation conversation

Based on the results of this study, and in particular the desire of this generation to be part of change, Movin’On and C2 are gearing up for Movin’On Summit 2021, the World Summit on Sustainable Mobility, with the aim of involving all players and all generations. From Montreal, Paris and Singapore, working groups will include young people alongside decision-makers.