Report: By 2015, 85 percent of area seniors will lack adequate access to mass transit

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 7:14pm
Staff reports

In the greater Nashville region, more than 86 percent of older adults (approximately 150,000 senior citizens) are expected to be without adequate access to transit by 2015, according to a Transportation for America report called Aging in Place, Stuck without Options.  

The report ranks metro areas of similar sizes by the percentage of seniors with poor access to public transportation, now and in the coming years, and presents other data on aging and transportation. Kansas City tops the list for metros of 1-3 million, followed by Oklahoma City; Fort Worth, Texas; Nashville; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

“The fact that 150,000 seniors in the Nashville area and its surrounding counties lack access to transit is a serious problem,” Dave Keiser of Transit Now Nashville said in a release. “We need to ensure that the older generation remains connected to their communities and provide the needed resources to support transportation options for older adults.”

By 2015, more than 15.5 million Americans ages 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or non-existent, the study shows. That number is expected to continue to grow rapidly as the baby boom generation “ages in place” in suburbs and exurbs with few mobility options for those who do not drive.

Without access to affordable travel options, 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, Transportation for America research shows. As the cost of owning and fuelling a vehicle rises, many older Americans who can still drive nonetheless will be looking for lower-cost options.

Local entities such as the Metro Transit Authority’s AccessRide and the Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency provide on-demand services where eligible residents can schedule trips ahead of time. From 2005 to 2010, AccessRide ridership has increased 29 percent, showing the growing demand for these services, local transportation industry officials said.

“This report from Transportation for America could not be more timely,” Ed Cole, president of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, said in a release. “Identifying and developing more transportation choices for Middle Tennesseans is a critical task being undertaken by both the public and private sectors and is driven by the knowledge that our population is growing older. As the report makes clear, an open and honest search for dedicated funding of transit options at the state, local and federal levels is an important task.”

In addition to transit services, the Mayor's Office is spearheading the Nashville Livability Project that looks at how the city can address its changing demographics and aging population by addressing housing, walkability of neighborhoods and access to services such as health care and grocery stores.

In addition, the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is working to address the issues throughout the entire metropolitan area in its long-range plan.

“Over the next decade or so, the number of Middle Tennesseans age 65 years or older will grow by 50 percent,” said Michael Skipper, executive director of the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the region’s transportation policy, planning and funding authority.  “We must begin working on strategies that help seniors stay active and connected to the community by allowing them to age in place. There is a growing need for transportation options beyond the car — for seniors as well as other emerging segments of the population like young professionals.

Skipper said the recently adopted 2035 Regional Transportation Plan calls for a modern, robust transit service and increased support for more walkable communities. 

AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly said people want to remain in their homes as they age.

“But that isn't enough,” she said. “We also need to remain connected with our communities in order to live full, independent lives. To do that, we must have easy access to the doctor's office, the grocery store, our grandchildren’s homes. Being stuck inside, looking out a window as the world goes on around us, simply is not an option.”

Read the full report and see the extended rankings of the report here.

17 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 6/14/11 at 6:05

Based on the administration's history of prioritizing city services, particularly transit, on the needs of tourists and the urban core's twentyorthirtysomethings I will bet their solution to this is "age in place as long as that place is in downtown".

This report should really put a crimp in the hard headed approach of pointing all buses and eventually inefficient trains and trolleys toward downtown's trivial nighttime population. It should but will probably be used instead as an omen that not enough has been spent on downtown and getting people to sacrifice space and privacy for homeyness and panhandling.

The Metro power base has a history of turning successful ventures outside into sudden money losers with a little accounting and OBE trickery. I expect soon a Deaniac sponsored study that shows the suburban county areas will suddenly be shown to be money suckers while downtown will be fiscal hero paying more than it's fair share of taxes.

Create a transit web and not a transit wheel and the elderly and everyone else will ave a usable system. Close and sell the silly downtown hub bus station and buy more buses to travel between the peon neighborhoods. Boom problem solved and Nashville is doing things like big boy cities instead of the me-to cities.

By: slzy on 6/14/11 at 9:10

how many senior citizens have contacted the council over this perceived problem?

By: titm on 6/15/11 at 5:05

Not to be ugly but why is it tax payers responsabality to get people around? Also, maybe we can co back and get some of the money the city has waisted to fund this project (i mean) line some polatition's pocket.

Just working for a living with honesty and integrity.

By: HokeyPokey on 6/15/11 at 6:34

In this long run, this is to be our fate.

We're old and in the way, we're breaking the federal budget by living longer with more expensive diseases than we were expected to.

Our children think we're nuisances that they'll have to eventually bear the burden for, our grand children think we smell funny and we're not cool.

Best just take us all out and line us up against the wall outside a SoBro trendy brewery and put us out of our misery.

Where do you want me to stand, young man?


By: gdiafante on 6/15/11 at 6:43

Hang on , hokey. This country is going to have a rude awakening in a few years when you boomers fully retire. My guess is that, as always, when staring disaster in the face, we'll act, but not until then. Procrastination is the American way.

By: budlight on 6/15/11 at 6:53

With the new Obama medical care and it's tight reins on treating those of us who are not going to be cost effective, we probably won't live long enough to need senior mass transit. Also, the "youth" of today are heading towards an evil end. Did you hear about the high school girls that were volunteering at a nursing home and were caught torturing the residents? Nice kids. I don't want their ilk taking care of me.

Best that we stay as strong and healthy as we can. Stay connected to God and to our immediate families.

It's a shame our country has gone so far down hill in the family structure.

By: bruingeek on 6/15/11 at 7:11

Perhaps we shoud be thankful that 15% will have "adequate access to mass transit by 2015" (whatever that really means). The other 85% will have to get permits for their hovercrafts *snicker*.

By: Kosh III on 6/15/11 at 8:31

"Not to be ugly but why is it tax payers responsabality to get people around? "

Dunno. Maybe we should rip up the taxpayer funded roads, streets and highways; discontinue police and fire service and anything else that doesn't make a profit for a corporation.

By: pgracesmith on 6/15/11 at 9:05

This is a REAL problem that the Council on Aging of Greater Nashville has been highlighting for years! Transportation for seniors is not just about rides, it's about maintaining relationships and connection to the community. Who among us wants to be stranded at home, isolated and forgotten as an older adult?

AccessRide is a valuable service but expensive to operate. We need to create innovative, cost-effective transportation solutions to meet the needs of older adults and persons with disabilities, most of whom need door-through-door support. Cities across the country have developed creative approaches - volunteer driver programs and membership based transportation services - like ITN and SilverRide - that use both paid and volunteer drivers, In many cases, local transit agencies have partnered with community organizations to start "supplemental transportation services" that cover a specific geographic area (e.g., Elder Express outside of Pittsburgh). Great models are out there - we just need the will and funding to start similar services here.

It's time for our transit planners and other community leaders to acknowledge the unique transportation needs of the growing senior population and make it a priority! After all, we'll all be seniors one day.

By: slzy on 6/15/11 at 9:26

I took my mother and the lady across the street anywhere they wanted to go before their passing.

Most churches have vans as do the Knowles Centers.

The slack could be made up by those people in thr Democratic Party who are all willing to provide transportation to the polls on election day.

By: HokeyPokey on 6/15/11 at 10:35

No sizy, the people in thr Democratic Party (and you'll get in trouble for not calling it the "Democrat Party") only haul dead people to polls on election day.

The rest of the time they're delivering free condoms to kindergartens and clean needles to the homeless.

By: tardistraveler on 6/15/11 at 10:49

The reality is that many people do NOT own cars, or don't drive for some other reason. These people have relied for years on mass transit and the kindness of friends and family to get around.

It's difficult. My car went belly-up some years ago and I went for a couple of months without one. Fortunately, there was a bus stop about a block from my house, so getting to work downtown was easy. Unfortunately, that's not the ONLY place I had to go . . . I had to drop my then-young son at childcare, I had doctor's appointments, I had to get to the grocery and buy food. All of these activities necessitated riding downtown, transferring to another bus, conducting my business there, then waiting on the return bus, and transferring once again to return home. And since the buses only seem to run once an hour on many of these routes, it could take up to FOUR HOURS to complete everything. Plus, when you add up the cost of all those rides, it gets pricey.

Contrast that with my experience in San Francisco, where the buses are laid out more grid-like, and you can get off at ANY stop and transfer to another bus, even if you have to walk a block or so to catch that bus. And the wait time for a bus is TEN MINUTES! VERY easy to get from Point A to Point B anywhere in the city. Nashville could take a clue.

If MTA wonders why more people don't ride now, it's just because it's so darned inconvenient! The wait times are horrendous, and the buses don't always come very close to your house. At my current home, I would have to walk a mile (uphill) to catch a bus. In younger days it wouldn't have been so bad, but since I'm rapidly approaching the "senior" years, the thought of walking up a huge hill in 95 degree heat to catch a bus isn't appealing, and healthwise is probably not practical.

MTA just needs to look at those cities that have got it right, and revamp their system. Since Nashville isn't a "grid" layout, the "hub" concept would probably work for the routes along the major highways, but then there also needs to be those buses that just serve neighborhoods, with transfers to the "hubs", and other neighborhood routes as well. It should be possible to go from disparate points in town without going downtown first - other cities manage it.

By: slacker on 6/15/11 at 11:41

I thought those free social security motorized wheelchairs they advertise on tv, addressed this problem.
Might throw in an umbrella, in case of rain. They can get in the bike lane, with those pesky bike riders.

By: govskeptic on 6/16/11 at 6:56

The government always has the money to provide us a study or University research
paper to show us what we need (they want to spend on) as a perceived problem.
This is no exception. While getting workers and citizens from outlying areas into
Metro may be a reasonable idea, all this talk of intercity rail is just a grab for some
Federal Dollars that people are getting paid to push forward. As to the endorsement
by AARP-they never see an expenditure they don't endorse-prostitutes to politics!

By: budlight on 6/16/11 at 7:13

slzy on 6/15/11 at 10:26
I took my mother and the lady across the street anywhere they wanted to go before their passing. Most churches have vans as do the Knowles Centers. The slack could be made up by those people in thr Democratic Party who are all willing to provide transportation to the polls on election day.

Kudos to you slzy for being a good citizen regarding the rides. I agree with your statement about the "Democratic Party"; where are they when you really need them?

Slacker, are you kidding, or what? Seriously!

By: madridia on 6/16/11 at 8:44

@ govskeptic who said: "all this talk of intercity rail is just a grab for some
Federal Dollars that people are getting paid to push forward"

Um, no, actually. I really do want to ride on the transport. I don't own a construction company, I'm not part of any organization that is pushing for mass transit, and I'm not paid a dime for my opinions. But I do pay my taxes and I do -- honest to goodness, swear on the Almighty -- want to ride to work, rather than drive through the gridlock I presently deal with every week day.

(I just saw that you said "intercity," and my real cause is for decent mass transit in greater Nashville. But similarly, if I could get to Atlanta in one hour by high-speed rail rather than four in a car, that would be stellar. Most of my work travel involves Atlanta anyway. Imagine a high-speed rail that stopped right at ATL...I can't wait!)

By: slacker on 6/16/11 at 9:39

Yes Sidney, I'm kidding.