Meet the Numtots: the millennials who find fixing public transport sexy

Elle Hunt in The Guardian: “Who makes a Facebook meme group about trains? The Numtots, that’s who: a global network of millennials who want to make cities better

A metro-map style logo for the New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens Facebook group.
 A metro-map style logo for the New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens Facebook group. Illustration: Mitchell Sheldrick/New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens.

The year is 2025. There are no cars, only public transport and bicycles. Four-lane highways have been replaced by bike paths. Pedestrians share the pavements with cyclists. The air is clean (because the buses are electric), and the living is easy.

This is the future the Numtots want.

Predominantly millennials with a passion for public transport, urban planning and internet humour, Numtots’ interests intersect in New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens, the Facebook group from which they derive their nickname. There, nearly 100,000 of them discuss and debate their perfect city, or transit lines in their area, or perpendicular traffic flow and improvisational vehicle pathing….Numtots – or just ’tots – are the sorts of older teens through to thirtysomethings who identify as being “irrationally excited” for the forthcoming Maryland purple line; who claim their first word as a child was “bus” (“I think I was destined to become a Numtot …”); who stridently propose ideas for “what the Amtrak system should look like” (“Fight me if you don’t like it”); and who mercilessly make fun of Richard Florida’s leather jacket….

Numtots’ guiding principles are broadly summed up by the page’s URL: “What would Jane Jacobs do?”…The enthusiastic response to the group – and the Generation Y-led “yimby” movement for high-density housing it dovetails with – suggests there may be something fundamentally millennial about urbanism. “I think at first people were really excited that they had a place to talk about living in cities,” says Orenstein, also 21. “But as the group has picked up steam, more people are joining that weren’t interested in the issues but are finding that maybe, actually, they are.” It makes sense: improving public transport, transitioning to renewable energy and investing in future-focused infrastructure are not often vote winners, being costly and slow to enact – but young people have more of a stake in seeing them put into action….(More)”.