People who don't travel outside their homes risk social isolation. This can have serious health consequences: According to a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 2001, socially isolated people have a significantly elevated risk of early death.
Public transportation is essential to help older people get around in their communities, and this is increasingly important as our oldest age segments grow. By 2030, it is projected that 8.7 million Americans will be age 85 and over, and a substantial portion of them will no longer drive.
Public transportation should comprise a range of services, including fixed routes, specialized transportation, flexible routes and service routes. Volunteer driver programs, taxi vouchers and other innovative solutions tailored to community needs are also important approaches. In 2009, older adults took more than 1 billion trips on public transportation, a 55 percent increase over 2001. But millions more have no access to these services.
Congress is about to consider the authorization of a major transportation bill. AARP urges Congress to:
- Continue to include public transportation, including in rural areas, in the core transportation program.
- Dedicate increased funding for public transportation and the specialized transportation program for older adults and persons with disabilities.
- Include support for operations to help mitigate the high cost of gas and other expenses.
- Strengthen the coordination of public transportation and transportation provided by human services programs, such as agencies that provide transportation for seniors to group meals
- Ensure that older Americans have greater involvement in developing transportation plans to meet their needs.
- Ensure that state departments of transportation retain their authority to use a portion of their highway funds for transit projects and programs.
- Include a Complete Streets policy to ensure that streets and intersections around transit stops are safe and convenient.