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Waiting for a Ride: Transit Access and America's Aging Population


In 2010, nearly seven million seniors were not driving, but still needed to perform basic functions like grocery shopping and visiting friends. As the older population expands from 12 to 20 percent of the total population by 2030, there will be a new urgency for transit options. This report by Transportation for America in partnership with the Center for Neighborhood Technologies (CNT), examines transit services, and specifically their relationship to an aging population. It then makes policy recommendations for the federal government. Community planners and local government officials can use the report to determine how an aging population impacts their own transportation planning.

Key Points

The implementation of transportation projects and initiatives is a lengthy process impacting several branches of government. The federal government must lead this process by providing financing opportunities and empowering local government authorities.

Other report highlights include:

  1. The average annual cost of owning a vehicle ranges from $7,600-$8,700 (based on an average of $2.88 per gallon gas price, which is rising). The escalating cost of fuel, combined with the rising number of seniors and the fact that these older adults are living on a fixed income, means that alternative forms of transportation are imperative. Unfortunately, transit infrastructure is not keeping pace, meaning that an additional 3.9 million seniors will have poor transit access between 2010-2015, which is projected to increase dramatically if nothing is done.
  2. The report ranks and compares differing sizes of metropolitan areas with poor transit access. For example, if Atlanta does not expand its transit system, then an estimated 90 percent of all seniors will have poor transit access. In some areas, this percentage is estimated to go as high as the total senior population (100 percent).
  3. The report lists several city transit access case studies comparing figures from 2000 with projections for 2015, including Tulsa, Jacksonville, Burlington, Billings, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. In each case, the need for greater funding and policy change is high.

How to Use

Increasing numbers of older adults highlights the needfor changes in all aspects of society and planning. Transportation is a major concern in all areas of the country. Community planners and local governments should use the report in two ways: 1) to conduct analysis of their own locality, and 2) to lobby at the federal level for greater access to funds and greater flexibility for implementation of transportation projects at the local level.

View full report: Waiting for a Ride: Transit Access and America's Aging Population (PDF – 3.0 MB)

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