Report: Senior Access to Transportation at High Risk

A new Transportation for America report says large numbers of seniors in this country are in effect being stranded in their homes because of poor access to public transportation.

The report, called "Aging in Place, Stuck Without Options," was released earlier this month.

"By 2015, more than 15.5 million Americans 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or non-existent," the study says. "That number is expected to continue to grow rapidly as the baby boom generation 'ages in place' in suburbs and exurbs with few mobility options for those who do not drive."

The report includes a chart that shows metropolitan areas and the percentages of seniors, age 65 to 79, who will have "poor transit access in 2015." Of metropolitan areas populations of 3 million and more, Atlanta fared the worst.

"In just four years, 90 percent of seniors in metro Atlanta will live in neighborhoods with poor access to options other than driving," the report says.

Atlanta is followed by Riverside/San Bernardino, Calif., with 69 percent of seniors expected to have poor transit access in 2015. That region is followed by Houston and Detroit (68 percent each) and Dallas (66 percent).

Metropolitan areas with 1 to 3 million residents didn't fare better. The Kansas City region, encompassing parts of both Missouri and Kansas, had a rating of 88 percent. Kansas City was followed by Oklahoma City, Okla. (86 percent), Fort Worth/Arlington, Texas (85 percent), Nashville, Tenn. (85 percent) and Raleigh-Durham/Chapel Hill, N.C. (80 percent).

Rankings for the metropolitan areas were based on analysis by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, with access determined by using the Transit Access Index.

The report defined poor transit access for seniors in terms of "the average number of bus, rail, or ferry routes within walking distance of their home." The report also adjusted the requirements according to the size of the metropolitan area, so that an area with fewer than 250,000 residents would get a "poor access" rating if a typical senior would have access to less than .8 bus, rail or ferry routes. An area with 3 million residents would get a "poor" rating if a typical senior living there had access to fewer than 1.9 bus, rail or ferry routes.

Because most seniors age in place, the report says, they remain "in neighborhoods where daily activities require frequent car trips. With rising life expectancies, America's largest generation will also be the oldest ever. Inevitably, aging experts note, a large share will find that their ability to navigate by vehicle diminishes or disappears over time."

Without accessible, affordable and safe travel options, the report continues, "seniors face isolation, a reduced quality of life and possible economic hardship." The report cited a 2004 study that said seniors who are unable to drive make fewer visits to their doctors and to see family and friends than seniors who are still able to drive.

The report also said, "The current drafting of the next transportation bill provides Congress an historic opportunity to ensure that older Americans are not stranded without adequate and affordable travel options." It urged Congress to provide funding for a range of public transportation modes, including buses, trains, vanpools and ride-sharing, and said public transportation efforts deserved to receive funding garnered from federal motor fuel receipts.

To download the Transportation for America report, click HERE.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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