While some aging baby boomers and empty nesters have been moving from suburbs to downtowns, the vast majority of older Americans continue to reside in car-dependent suburban and rural communities. Inevitably, their ability to navigate these communities by vehicle will diminish or disappear over time, and millions of older adults will need transportation alternatives in order to maintain their independence.
Unfortunately, a recent report commissioned by Transportation for America, a coalition that promotes smarter transportation infrastructure investment, predicts the number of senior citizens with poor access to one such transportation alternative—mass transit—will jump 35 percent between 2000 and 2015 in the nation’s metropolitan areas. And metro areas’ abilities to handle this problem vary widely.
The report, “Aging in Place, Stuck without Options,” determined that in a majority of metro areas with 1 million or more people, more than half of all seniors aged 65 to 79 will have “poor access” to mass transit in 2015. Poor access was defined as having fewer than two bus, rail, or ferry routes within walking distance.
Not surprisingly, the metros offering the best transit access for seniors are typically larger, coastal metropolises with larger transit systems, such as New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The worst metropolitan areas for seniors’ transit mobility tend to be more inland, with stagnant or shrinking bus systems. Interestingly, the 11 worst metros include several places with rail systems, such as Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville, suggesting their systems may be too small.
For ULI members and real estate developers, the metro areas that rank worst for seniors’ transit access could offer opportunity: These metros may be particularly ripe for senior housing projects that combine transit-oriented development, creating new bus or rail stops.
Here are Transportation for America’s top 11 worst major metro areas for seniors’ transit mobility:
Metropolitan Area Over
1 Million Population
Projected Population Aged 65 to 79 with Poor Transit Access in 2015
Percentage of Population Aged 65 to 79 with Poor Transit Access in 2015
Kansas City, MO-KS
Oklahoma City, OK
Virginia Beach–Norfolk, VA
Riverside-San Bernardino, CA
Source: Transportation for America.