The Washington area has poor access to public transportation for aging baby boomers — and it’s going to get worse, according to a new study released Tuesday.
However, the region ranked ahead of several cities in the study from Transportation for America, a coalition of transportation and real estate groups. Being No. 1 in the rankings means that you have the worst transit options for the aging population. That dubious distinction went to Atlanta; followed by Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif.; Houston; and Detroit. Washington ranked ninth. Los Angeles ranked 11th. New York was ranked by itself because the city is so large.
The study “Aging in Place: Stuck Without Options, ” judged metropolitan areas based on their size and transit options.
“The baby-boomer generation is starting to turn 65 and they’ll have a long life expectancy,” said David Goldberg, director of communications for Transportation for America. “The majority will age in suburban and ex-urban areas built for the car.
“Experience and studies show that most people after the age of 55 don’t move,” he said. “That means these people are aging in place. It is presenting an enormous set of challenges in places built for younger people.”
The neighborhoods are subdivisions and typically you don’t get out of them without a car,” he said. “If you don’t have a car then somebody has to drive you or you have to use public transit.”
In the D.C. area, Goldberg said the study found that in 2000, 34 percent of the population had poor access to transit. By 2015, that percentage will grow to 41 percent, Goldberg said, because more people will live longer and will “age in place without transit options.”
“There’s going to be a lot of people living in years they can’t drive,” Goldberg said. “They’ll have to rely on their relatives to give them rides. But if they want to maintain their independence they’ll need other options like transit.”
The study drew its conclusions by looking at U.S. Census data of populations by age and how many people stayed in an area and overlaid those with current census transit maps, according to Goldberg.
The solution for areas like the D.C. region to overcome the lack of transit for aging baby boomers: Get more resources, Goldberg said.
This summer Congress is rewriting the federal transportation bill and Goldberg said that’s a prime time to get in how on “funding and policy for how federal dollars get spent.”
“We’re raising the flag,” he said. “There needs to be more funds to support communities that are trying to expand transit and other services for their aging population.”
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