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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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The Dangerous Design of San Francisco’s High-Speed “Arterial” Streets

Where pedestrians are hit. Click for interactive map

It’s no secret that San Francisco could do a lot more to make its streets safer, but a new national report on pedestrian safety issued today highlights a glaring pattern where the bulk of preventable pedestrian crashes with motor vehicles occur: on poorly designed, high-speed “arterial” roads.

San Francisco is renowned for being a walkable city but still has its share of dangerously designed streets that put pedestrians most at risk from cars.

“In urban areas, nearly 60 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur on wider, high-capacity, and higher-speed roads called ‘arterials’,” said Michelle Ernst, co-author of “Dangerous by Design,” a new comprehensive report on the state of pedestrian safety from Transportation for America.

Across the state and the nation, most pedestrian deaths are shown to occur on roads designed for high vehicle speeds with poor pedestrian facilities, and the victims are disproportionately comprised of seniors and people of color. The problem has been historically ignored by governments at all levels.

“If a jumbo jet crashed in this country every month, which is about the equivalent of what happens with pedestrian fatalities, you would be sure there would be no end to congressional hearings and investigations,” said James Corless, the director of Transportation for America.

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East Bay Regional Parks Gets $10 Million TIGER Grant for Bike and Ped Trails

Image: East Bay Parks District

The purple lines are the new trails that will be built. Image: East Bay Regional Park District. Click to enlarge.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $600 million dollars in TIGER II grants today and the only project in Northern California to make the cut was the East Bay Regional Park District’s proposal to fill in seven key gaps on the 200-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail system that runs across Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

“We’re really happy,” said Jim Townsend, the trails development program manager for the park district. “We think that this is going to go a long way toward advancing bicycling and walking as legitimate transportation modes, not only in the region but nationwide.”

The district’s Green Transportation Initiative will get $10.2 million from U.S. DOT for gap closures along the Bay Trail in Hercules, Berkeley, Albany, Union City and Martinez. It will help to build out the East Bay Greenway in Oakland, extend the Iron Horse Trail in Pleasanton and Dublin through the Hacienda Business Park and a planned transit-oriented development, and reconnect Brentwood and Antioch along the Mokelumne Trail in eastern Contra Costa County, a path that was severed by the new Highway 4 bypass.  All the trails will feature Class I separated bike paths.

In its application [pdf], the district pointed out that Alamada and Contra Costa counties are home to some of the most congested roads and highways in the country. With the East Bay’s population expected to double over the next three decades, filling in the missing links along these trails will make it easier for people to bike or walk to work or school in areas where the infrastructure has kept them stuck in their cars.

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Feds Announce Winners of $293 Million in Transit Grants

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FTA chief Peter Rogoff announced the winners of $293 million in competitive grants for bus and streetcar projects today. The biggest chunks of funding will help build streetcar projects in Cincinnati, Charlotte, Fort Worth, and St. Louis, as well as rapid bus corridors in New York and Chicago. All told, the funding will be distributed among 53 projects, chosen from more than 300 applicants.

cincy_streetcar.jpgImage: Cincinnati Enquirer
While streetcar projects got the largest individual grants, most of the funding will go toward bus projects, including a number of grants for smaller cities to build, expand, or improve stations like Des Moines's Multi-Modal Transit Hub. Several bus projects have an information component, promising to make service more predictable and convenient by giving riders a clear sense of when buses will arrive.

Also on the list is Boston's regional bike-share network, slated to receive $3 million to help build more than 500 public bicycle stations. The bike-share project made the cut because of its potential to expand the reach and accessibility of the bus and rail system. Boston's bike-share launch recently got pushed back to 2011, but at that scale, it would be, by far, the largest system in the country.

Here's a sample of the major projects that got a boost:

  • Cincinnati will receive $25 million to help build a six-mile streetcar route, with an eye toward spurring mixed-use development downtown. The city planning commission recently took the enlightened step of reducing parking requirements along the future streetcar route.
  • Chicago received support for a pair of rapid bus projects: $11 million for the Jeffery BRT corridor, which will improve service to major job center on a route with poor access to trains, and $25 million for a two-mile, east-west bus priority street serving several routes downtown.
  • New York City's 34th Street busway got an $18 million grant. Streetsblog NYC readers have been following this project for a couple of years. NYCDOT recently announced its intention to make 34th Street the first physically separated busway in the city.
  • One of the surprise winners was Fort Worth, which received about $25 million for a 2.5-mile one-way streetcar loop, intended to serve as the hub in a future network. Streetsblog Network member Fort Worthology called the grant "incredible and extremely positive news" for the larger streetcar project.

You can see the complete list of projects here.