demographics of the United States will change dramatically during the next 25
years as more baby boomers reach their 60s, 70s and beyond. The U.S. Census
Bureau projects that the number of Americans age 65 or older will swell from 35
million today to more than 62 million by 2025
- nearly an 80 percent
increase. As people grow older, they often become less willing or able to drive,
making it necessary to depend on alternative methods of transportation.
the United States is currently ill prepared to provide adequate transportation
choices for our rapidly aging population. Alternatives to driving are sparse,
particularly in some regions and in rural and small town communities. As the
number of older people increases, so too will their mobility needs. How the
nation addresses this issue will have significant social and economic
report presents new findings based on the National Household Transportation
Survey of 2001 and places them in the context of other research on mobility in
the aging population.
than one in five (21%) Americans age 65 and older do not drive.
Some reasons include:
Declining health, eyesight, physical or mental abilities;
Concern over safety (self-regulation);
No car or no access to a car;
than 50% of non-drivers age 65 and older -
or 3.6 million Americans -
stay home on any given day partially because they lack transportation
options. The following populations are more heavily affected:
Older non-drivers have a decreased
ability to participate in the community and the economy. Compared with older
drivers, older non-drivers in the United States make:
15% fewer trips to the doctor;
59% fewer shopping trips and visits to restaurants;
65% fewer trips for social, family and religious activities.
For trips outside their immediate
neighborhood, public transportation is the only alternative to asking for a ride
for many non-drivers. Where public transportation is available, older Americans
make regular use of it.
Public transportation trips by older
non-drivers totaled an estimated 310 million in 2001;
Older minority populations account
for a significant share of these trips, with older African-Americans and
Latinos more than twice as likely to use public transportation as their
A safe and inviting walking and
bicycling environment provides mobility and health benefits to many older
More than half of older Americans
make walking a regular activity, and nearly two-thirds walk a half mile at
least once a month.
Four percent of older Americans ride
a bicycle at least once a week.
Research shows that moderate
exercise, such as walking or bicycling, can contribute significantly to a
Improving the walking and bicycling
environment is a priority for the general public.
More livable communities have lower
rates of staying home, and higher rates of public transportation use and walking
among non-drivers aged 65 and over.
61% of older non-drivers stay home
on a given day in more spread-out areas, as compared to 43% in denser areas;
More than half of older non-drivers
use public transportation occasionally in denser areas, as compared to 1 in
20 in more spread-out areas;
One in three older non-drivers walks
on a given day in denser areas, as compared to 1 in 14 in more spread-out
In too many places, public
transportation is still not a practical option for older people.
Public transportation depends on
federal, state and local government funding to operate. Making public
transportation options available to more people will require additional
Maintaining the current public
transportation system requires a minimum of $14.8 billion in capital
To improve the public transportation system would require $43.9
For frail older persons, paratransit
and specialized transportation are the only feasible modes of transportation,
other than getting a ride from others.
Under the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), public transportation agencies provide complementary
paratransit service along fixed routes for people whose disabilities prevent
them from using fixed route service.
The Federal Transit
Administration’s Specialized Transportation Program for the Elderly and
Persons with Disabilities (Section 5310) was funded at $90.6 million in
2004, or 0.23 percent of all federal transportation funding.
Substantially increase investment in
public transportation systems to expand and improve services to meet the
needs of older Americans in metropolitan and rural areas.
Increase funding for existing
specialized transportation programs that provide mobility for older persons,
such as FTA’s Section 5310 program.
Incorporate the mobility needs of
older Americans into the planning of transportation projects, services, and
streets. Coordinate with land use planning.
Improve coordination among human
services agencies and between those agencies and public transportation
and Street Improvements:
Complete the streets by providing a
place for safe walking and bicycling for people of all ages.
Urge states to adopt federal
guidelines for designing safer roads for older drivers and pedestrians.
Preserve the flexibility of state
and local governments to spend federal transportation funds on improving
public transportation, pedestrian and bicycle paths, and other alternatives
that will meet the mobility needs of older Americans.
Support the “Transportation
Enhancements” program, which is the only federal source of support for
pedestrian and bicycle safety projects and facilities.