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Posts from the "Seniors" Category

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How Seniors Get Stuck at Home With No Transit Options

According to AARP, 88 percent of seniors want to stay in their own homes as long as they can. But where are those homes? In auto-dependent suburbs. That’s where most Baby Boomers grew up, in the postwar era, and that’s where most of them have stayed – even as the largest (and longest-living) generation ever enters its golden years.

As baby boomers age, the suburbs they live in will find that auto dependency doesn't work for everybody. Photo: Transportation for America

However, more than 20 percent of seniors (age 65 and up) do not drive at all. In the spread-out, transit-poor communities where many of them live, seniors who don’t drive miss out on countless opportunities. According to a report released today by Transportation for America called “Aging in Place: Stuck Without Options”:

Absent access to affordable travel options, seniors face isolation, a reduced quality of life and possible economic hardship. A 2004 study found that seniors age 65 and older who no longer drive make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor, 59 percent fewer trips to shop or eat out, and 65 percent fewer trips to visit friends and family, than drivers of the same age.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology conducted the analysis for the T4A report, finding that a large proportion of seniors lack transit access, and looking down the road just a few short years to 2015, when 15.5 million seniors will find themselves without transportation options.

“My generation grew up and reared our 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 John Robert Smith, former mayor of Meridian, Mississippi and co-chair of Transportation for America.

When seniors can’t get out, the local economy suffers too. John Robert Smith says when he was mayor, Meridian set a goal of recruiting retirees.

“Retirees bring their retirement funds into your communities, deposit them in your banks; they support your school systems but they don’t make demands on your school systems, they don’t put children in the school system; they are law-abiding, good citizens so they don’t have that impact on your police department, they’re just an all around benefit and plus for your community,” Smith said.

Even seniors who can still drive might find that they feel nervous driving after dark, or that their reflexes are slowing down. Still others start looking for other transportation options because their fixed incomes can’t absorb high gas prices.

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Dangerous Street Designs Threaten Oakland’s Communities of Color, Seniors

Oakland-data.jpg

Pedestrian fatalities 2006-2010 (in black) from the CHP SWITRS database, 2010 race and ethnicity distribution from Eric Fisher (whites represented by red, black by blue, Asian by green, Hispanic by yellow)

With freeways and wide thoroughfares running through neighborhoods of color, the City of Oakland demonstrates many of the deadly trends discussed in Transportation for America’s new Dangerous by Design Report.

Across the country and locally, people of color make up a disproportionately large share of pedestrian deaths. Nationwide, the annual pedestrian fatality rate among African Americans is 2.39 deaths for every 100,000 people. Hispanics suffer a somewhat lower rate (1.97), while rates among Asians (1.45) and whites (1.38) are substantially lower.

As the map above illustrates, all of Oakland’s traffic fatalities during the last five years occurred in the flats, an area with a higher proportion of people of color than the relatively affluent hills. Less than three percent of pedestrian fatalities in the 2000s occurred in the hills (the most recent in 2005). You can see data for 2001-2009 on Transportation for America’s site.

Seniors are also disproportionately likely to die in a crosswalk. Nationally, people over 65 make up 22 percent of pedestrian fatalities but only 13 percent of the population. In Oakland, the risk inequality is more exaggerated: seniors account for 26 percent of pedestrian fatalities but only 11 percent of the population.

The higher mortality rate of seniors is partially attributed to older bodies’ difficulty recovering from serious injuries. Seniors are more susceptible to short crossing times and unprotected crosswalks, but several design elements that protect seniors, such as “count down” crossing signals and mid-street refuges, actually make streets safer for everyone.

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The Nowtopian 25 Comments

Say What?

cable_car_at_columbus_and_powell_7316.jpgThe vibrations and rumble of cable cars used to occur on many of San Francisco's streets.

We are often attracted to city life for the energy, the boisterousness, the noise. I am a city guy having lived all my life in cities (born in Brooklyn, Chicago until age 10, Oakland until 17, and San Francisco since I was 20). I often make the joke that "nature is trying to kill me," when one of my friends suggests we go camping. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s I was a punk rock fan, and went to dozens of shows with ear-splitting volumes. I've been to plenty of other events through the years with overwhelming noise, from other concerts to major sports events, etc. Maybe that's why I have had a ringing in my ears for the last two years (tinnitus). And perhaps not surprisingly, I've become increasingly frustrated at the oft-overlooked urban problem of noise pollution.

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The Nowtopian 3 Comments

StreetUtopia North Beach

view_se_from_russian_hill_towards_tel_hill_and_downtown_5090.jpgView southeast across North Beach from Russian Hill.

StreetUtopia is a new community organizing effort centered in North Beach. Launched by Hank Hyena and Phil Millenbah at an inaugural event in early January, they drew upwards of 150 people to an empty historic storefront at 1 Columbus Avenue, where they showed Streetfilms, had a small art exhibit, and conducted a survey of the folks who turned out. Hank Hyena explained his motivation in terms of European cities which are often greener, more bike-friendly, and with more pedestrian-centers than US cities. Along with several other parents of children at Yick Wo Public School, including co-instigator Phil Millenbah, a San Leandro city planner, they staged an inspiring evening of art, film, and conversation.

The questionnaire they handed out at the event started with a brief paragraph, assuming that we are on the cusp of a carbon-constrained transition to a future with far less cars:

The “modern” era brought television, automobiles and other technological changes. As part of this cultural transformation to the modern era and to support automobile use, society built millions of miles of paved roadway as both streets in urban areas and as highways connecting urban areas. The “postmodern” world is carbon constrained and the focus of transport is bus or rail and the old the roadway infrastructure is not needed in the same capacity. What should be done with the old infrastructure?

Then it asked a series of questions about whether or not Columbus Avenue should be closed to cars, if there should be “flex-streets,” if Washington Square should have a fountain, and what kinds of mixed-uses North Beach streets should have if cars weren’t the only priority?

Subsequently, I interviewed both Phil and Hank about StreetUtopia and their organizing, which you can read after the jump:

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Muni to Pilot Senior/Disabled Pass with BART Access

3258898257_8c7cabd8a7_m.jpgFlickr photo: frankfarm

The MTA had some good news to announce today about Muni amidst a deepening budget shortfall, service cuts, and fare increases: the agency is launching a pilot program to allow senior and disabled customers unlimited access to BART within San Francisco and all Muni transit services with a single pass. At least during the pilot phase, the pass will cost $15, the same price as the regular Senior/Disabled Pass.

When Muni raised the price of the monthly Adult Fast Pass from $45 to $55 on July 1, it also raised the price of the monthly Senior/Disabled Pass from $10 to $15. January 2010 will bring another $5 increase to the Adult Fast Pass price, and using the pass on BART within San Francisco, a feature now included in the base price, will cost an extra $10.

By contrast, starting in February 2010, senior and disabled customers in the pilot program will actually get more value out of their now pricier passes. Unlike Muni's TransLink trial program, however, each phase of the pass pilot program will be limited to 2,000 participants, who will be randomly selected from a drawing with a November 30 deadline. The first phase will last six months, followed by two more six-month trail periods with separate groups of participants.

According to its press release, the MTA says it will use the pilot to assess the "functionality, popularity and potential costs" of implementing a Senior/Disabled Pass with unlimited BART access. If the pilot is deemed successful, the pass could be made widely available to senior and disabled customers.

Full details about registering for the pilot program are available on the MTA's website.

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For Bus Stop Consolidation, a Good Policy Will Be Good Politics

2837940932_603516f64f.jpgFlickr photo: ehoyer

With support for bus stop consolidation building, local leaders are starting to weigh in on political strategies for implementing a new stop spacing policy.

For Pi Ra of the Senior Action Network, the best political strategy is to start with a good policy, before recommendations to eliminate specific stops are out. The MTA has been working on a revised stop spacing policy, but Ra said the draft revised policy isn't adequate.

"So far, it's based solely about if it's flat or not flat, what degree of slope it is, and if it's a transfer or not," said Ra. "But they haven't really put in consideration the demographics of who uses that particular bus stop, and if it's a destination or not. So they should...do all their research and then come up with a criteria to judge whether or not that bus stop should be there."

Ra said he "does think we have too many bus stops, especially in areas where it's really flat," but he thinks the MTA needs to start with a solid policy before it makes specific proposals. "Do you want to go through this again every time you're going to eliminate a bus stop? It'd be best to come up with a criteria that everybody accepts, or closely accepts, so when you decide to eliminate a bus stop, you say, 'here's the criteria, it fits that criteria,' and since this is what we accepted, then you won't have such a big fight over it each time. And they seem like they still haven't learned that particular lesson."

In a presentation on stop spacing in June, the MTA recommended that the revised stop spacing policy should give consideration to "destinations such as schools, hospitals, and other community facilities," though it didn't mention senior centers or similar demographic considerations specifically. The MTA has resisted doing broad demographic surveys, but Ra said taking important institutions into consideration "will be fine," instead of trying to survey demographics at every stop.

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AARP Sends Its Transportation Priorities to Congress

AARP,
the Washington mega-force that lays claim to a membership base of 40
million older Americans, today threw its weight behind three
transportation policy changes in a letter to House members.

The
group asked Reps. Jim Oberstar (D-MN) and John Mica (R-FL), the
chairman and senior Republican on the House transportation committee,
to include "complete streets" language in their upcoming federal transportation bill.

AARP
is also seeking $500 million — and the appointment of a special
assistant to the Transportation Secretary — to help states implement
highway design standards aimed at ensuring safety for older drivers and
pedestrians.

Finally, the group suggested an expansion of the federal DOT’s Section 5310 grant program,
which helps non-profit groups provide private transportation services
to senior citizens and the disabled. The requests were made in a letter
to Oberstar and Mica from David Sloane, senior vice president of
government relations for AARP. Sloane wrote:

[W]e urge you to consider measures to make communities safer and
more livable for older adults through expanded transportation services and
improved infrastructure. Transportation is inextricably linked to the
health and economic security outcomes that are so essential to the well-being
of older persons.