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Transportation Use and Options of Midlife and Older Adults

Americans’ love affair with the car is not over, but the ardor may have waned, if the results of this survey of adults ages 50 or older are any indication.  Driving is still the dominant mode of transportation, noted by nearly nine in ten respondents, with the “second tier” options—getting rides from family or friends, walking, or using public transportation—cited by only one-third of respondents.  However, it seems that this group of adults would like more choice in their transportation options.

For example, having a variety of transportation options available in one’s community is important, noted by nearly two-thirds of respondents, but more than half said there is no public transportation within a ten-minute walk and nearly six in ten said it would be difficult for them to walk to the stop nearest their home.  Certainly it is not possible to know whether individuals would actually use public transportation if it were nearer to them, but having it available would at least expand their choices.

Perhaps reflective of the current economic climate, nearly six in ten respondents expressed concern that budgetary cuts would reduce the availability of public transportation in their community.  Another half said they have changed their traveling ways a great deal or somewhat as a result of the economic downturn.

With roughly one-quarter of respondents not knowing of volunteer driving programs and another fifth not knowing of carpooling or rideshare programs or of affordable transportation services designed for older adults, more information could be shared or made available to those who are interested in it in order to give them the option of reducing their reliance on their personal cars.

This telephone survey of 1,000 adults ages 50 and older was conducted for AARP by Woelfel Research, Inc. from November 4-18, 2009.  For more information about this research, please contact Teresa A. Keenan, Ph.D., at 202-434-6274.

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