Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

Fixing the Mobility Crisis Threatening the Baby Boom Generation

Transportation for America today released "Aging in Place, Stuck without Options: Fixing the Mobility Crisis Threatening the Baby Boom Generation," a report that cautions federal lawmakers about the potential calamity older Americans will face as their dependence on automobiles becomes more and more problematic.

"The baby boom generation grew up and reared their own children in communities that, for the first time in human history, were built on the assumption that everyone would be able to drive an automobile," said Reconnecting America CEO John Robert Smith, co-chair of Transportation for America. "The report explores the question: What happens when people in this largest, oldest generation outlive their ability to drive for everything?"

In 2009, Reconnecting America and the National Housing Trust joined AARP in a study about the need to perserve affordable housing near transit. As "Preserving Affordability and Access in Livable Communities" explained, Older adults living in auto-dependent places who have limited or restricted ability to drive can become increasingly socially and physically isolated, which can negatively affect both physical and emotional health. Physical activity is one of the best mechanisms for preventing some of the most serious ailments related to aging, including depression, falls, and a variety of inflammatory conditions.

According to the new Transportation for America report, nearly 4 million additional people over age 65 will be living in auto-dependant areas by 2015 compared with numbers from 2000.

"The sheer scale of the transportation challenges presented by the aging of our largest demographic cohort requires a national response, particularly given fiscal constraints facing local communities," Transportation for America reports. "Federal leadership and investment in a variety of transportation projects and programs will be essential to help communities provide for the mobility needs of an aging America."

Transportation for America's report recommends:

  • An increase in federal funding dedicated to a variety of forms of public transportation
  • Provide funding and incentives for innovative practices such as coordination among existing programs and services, public-private partnerships, and the wider deployment of “intelligent transportation” technology that can help make transport systems more efficient and customer-friendly.
  • Encourage state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and transit operators to involve seniors and the community stakeholders in developing plans for meeting the mobility needs of older adults.
  • Ensure that state departments of transportation retain their current authority under federal law to “flex” a portion of their highway funds for transit projects and programs.
  • Include a “complete streets” policy to ensure that streets and intersections around transit stops are safe and inviting for seniors.

As the Transportation for America report points out, "A better balance of transportation options will serve all Americans – improving accessibility for everyone."

Transportation for America has formed a broad coalition of housing, business, environmental, public health, transportation, equitable development, and other organizations who seek to align our national, state, and local transportation policies with an array of issues such as economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development.