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Benefits of Public Transportation: Expanding the Transportation Options in an Aging Society


Many Americans share two overarching goals as they progress into older adulthood: independent living and the ability to age in place. These goals enhance personal fulfillment, support economic vitality in our communities, reduce financial and emotional stress for family members, and minimize the cost to society for elder care and related services. To achieve these goals, increased investment and sustained involvement of elected officials, transportation providers, and older adults themselves is essential.

Though the coming age shift has been widely discussed, America remains ill-prepared to handle the transportation and mobility needs of older adults. This report, a collaborative effort between the American Public Transportation Association and Public Transportation Partnership for Tomorrow, focuses on the challenges of developing a national public transportation and mobility action plan and examines the efforts of several transportation systems in cities across the U.S. including Charlotte, NC, Ann Arbor, MI, Peoria, IL, and Eugene, OR.

Key Points

More than 20 percent of older adults age 65+ do not drive and currently over half of American households do not have adequate access to public transportation options. Failing to expand and sustain mobility options for older adults will lead to further negative social and economic consequences for this growing population. Some of these consequences include heightening safety concerns, isolation and reduced independence, and diminished quality of life and health. Many states have realized such consequences, yet a nationwide action plan to combat this mobility crisis is essential to allow for older adults to remain independent and age in place.

Other report highlights include:

  • Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) – Charlotte, NC’s transit system works to provide reliable transportation for older adults and focuses on educating older riders about their services and the benefits of utilizing public transportation. CATS offers exclusive benefits to older riders including reduced fares, guaranteed reserved seating, and access to “kneeling” buses for easier boarding and exiting.
  • Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) – Ann Arbor, MI’s transportation system focuses on assisting older riders with everyday tasks such as going grocery shopping. For over 30 years, the AATA has offered the Senior Ride Grocery Trip, for many this “grocery bus” is their only way to get to and from the grocery store each week.

Many more examples of best practices of our nation’s transit systems are provided in the report. These case studies provide a framework for transportation plans at the local level.

How to Use

This report can be used to gain an understanding of how communities across the country are working to prepare for the future mobility issues facing older Americans. Government officials, community planners, and local leaders should use this report as a resource when developing a local mobility action plan.

View Full Report: Benefits of Public Transportation: Expanding the Transportation Options in an Aging Society (PDF – 387 KB)

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