Public Transportation Offers Challenges for Older Adults
Any New York City commuter will tell you that the U.S. public transit system has issues. For older adults, those challenges can make getting around inaccessible, or even dangerous, reports CityLab:
Protected streets, denser neighborhoods, and accessible medical care make urban life safer and healthier for everyone—especially the 65-and-up crowd, one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population. By 2030, nearly 20 percent of Americans will be 65 or older, up 6 percent points from 2015.
A new report by TransitCenter makes the case that healthy aging hinges on better mass transportation.
Most transit systems, especially those built prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act, don’t respond adequately to these limitations. Buses that lack accessible seating, stations without shade or benches, and connections that require crossing dangerous roads discourage elderly users. So do, for example, the 362 out of 472 subway stations in New York City that aren’t accessible to wheelchair users, as the TransitCenter report notes.
Without access to transportation, seniors may miss medical appointments or experience growing social isolation. Some older adults may take matters into their own hands and drive themselves, even if operating a car has become unsafe for them. Companies like Lyft and Uber are pairing with medical providers to get patients to their appointments, but there isn’t a comprehensive solution yet:
Cities and start-ups haven’t cracked the code of on-demand microtransit yet, but when they do, the promise is huge: multi-passenger shuttle buses that can create their own routes, responding to the demands of a smartphone-wielding population, could fill first-last-mile gaps between home, work, and transit, supplement maxed-out subway lines, or replace inefficient fixed-route bus lines that serve small numbers of riders.
Microtransit could be a game-changer for seniors savvy with smartphones, as a recent Mobility Lab survey in Arlington, Virginiaindicates. And before readers cry privatization, public agencies in Austin, Kansas City, and Los Angeles have tried, or are experimenting with, contracting microtransit start-ups under their own umbrella—this seems to be the wave of the future.
Whether private or public transit, making it easier to get around U.S cities will be a welcome change for all.