ARC Press Release
(Atlanta – June 8) If you can’t drive or don’t have a car, are you just out of luck in metro Atlanta? To assess how systems need to change to meet the needs of non-drivers, the Atlanta Regional Commission, AARP, MAVEN and AAA Traffic Safety Foundation hosted a transportation summit this week. The Worst to First: Transportation Access for Older Adults, Persons with Disabilities and Non-Drivers summit brought together local and national leaders to discuss transportation options, as well as highlight local and national best practices.
Last year the Atlanta region ranked worst among large metro areas for access to transit for seniors, but regional leaders are making great strides towards improving that ranking. There are more options today for transportation access in the Atlanta region than ever before, and more are on the way. Local community efforts such as volunteer driver programs, transportation vouchers, travel training on transit and community shuttles for seniors are providing flexible alternatives to help non-drivers get around.
The Regional Transportation Referendum on July 31 offers a key opportunity to address these kinds of mobility issues. The referendum project list contains the single largest investment in transportation options for older adults and disabled individuals. Local communities in the metro are also allocating some of their local dollars to supports for these no-driving populations. Cobb County alone has committed another $7 million toward additional services for seniors and disabled.
Nearly half of the transportation referendum’s $8.5 billion will go to transit and other transportation alternatives, providing more options for non-drivers in the metro region. “The referendum investments will expand existing services and make it easier for older adults and their families to schedule a ride,” said Maureen Kelly of ARC’s Aging Division. “More sidewalks will mean greater pedestrian safety and more access to the places older adults want to go.”
David Goldberg, one of the authors of “Aging in Place, Stuck Without Options”, shared Transportation for America’s recent research that has found that by 2015, more than 15.5 million Americans 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or non-existent. 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. The situation is especially acute in metro Atlanta, where by 2015 an estimated 500,000 residents 65 and older will have little or no access to transit.
Fortunately, said Goldberg, “There are as many solutions as there are communities. Communities must be creative in testing new ideas and put in place programs designed to work in their local community.” Technology promises some options. For example, a smart phone app called “One Bus Away,” developed by a Seattle college student, can show the location of nearby buses and map their routes. Transit providers in Seattle have embraced the technology, Goldberg said, making it very easy for people who are not familiar with the Seattle system to know how to navigate it.
Virginia Dize of the National Center on Senior Transportation, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging added that, “Mobility management is the way we can do more with less. By streamlining our existing services, not only will consumers be able to easily access the rides they need, but providers can efficiently serve more people.”
“The enthusiasm and cooperative spirit within the Atlanta Region sets them apart from almost every urban area in the country,” said panelist Dan Dirks of the Community Transportation Association of America. “When older adults and people with disabilities can maintain and increase their independence, everyone benefits.”