Friday, May 27, 2011

Sorry, but You're Grounded

Authored by Susan Rees, Director of National Policy, Wider Opportunities for Women

“The conversation” – you know, the one where you try to convince your aging Mom or Dad to give up their car keys -- is occurring with greater frequency across the country. Middle class and suburban elders are increasingly facing the “stranded home alone” situation that has confronted younger people who don’t own cars and residents of distressed urban and rural communities who have always lacked access to decent, affordable transit systems or specialized transportation services. The baby boomers, faced with telling their parents they’re “grounded,” also dread the knowledge that it won’t be long before they are the ones whose independence and mobility will be challenged.

No wonder that 80% of Americans believe the country would benefit from an expanded, improved public transportation system, according to a 2011 poll commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Safe streets and sidewalks and accessible, affordable transit options are critical with the aging of our population. By 2025, 60 million people, one in five Americans, will be 65 or older. Livable communities should be available to anyone, whether they live in cities, suburbs or rural areas.  Everyone needs safe streets and sidewalks and affordable housing close to transit. These are the things that will enable seniors to get out, get their groceries, receive medical care, maintain their physical activity and, in short, age in place in their communities.

The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index shows that transportation is the second or third largest expense in an elder’s budget after housing and, for some, out-of-pocket health care costs. Yet various pending budget proposals, including a balanced budget amendment or universal spending cap, would cut federal transportation subsidies by 30% or even more. Already, 80% of the nation’s transit systems have eliminated routes, cut service hours, increased fares, or a combination of all three, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

There is another way. Curbing our national debt can be achieved over a longer timeframe than proposed and with the help of equitable revenue increases.  Meanwhile, President Obama’s transportation initiative could be adopted to create jobs and generate new revenues while providing the kind of transportation services our elders depend upon.


Anonymous said...

Important topic! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Great topic and very important. A great example of how we economic security and community re-development need to go hand in hand.

Anita Hairston said...

Well-stated Susan! Thank you for drawing attention to this important issue.

Transportation is a crucial link to ensuring opportunity for all — connecting us to jobs, schools, housing, healthcare, and grocery stores.

We need to invest in a more equitable transportation system so that there are safe, affordable, accessible alternatives to driving for all Americans - young and old, poor and rich, rural, suburban and urban.

It is also clear that we need to do better by the older Americans.
Fifty percent of older people who do not drive in the United States stay home on a given day because they lack transportation options. This should not be.

As advocates for healthy transportation alternatives rightly point out, we need policy changes that make it safe to walk, bicycle and take public transportation. (See:

This is so important for those over 65 who have which have higher rates of pedestrian deaths than their younger counterparts. And within communities of color, older adults of color suffer pedestrian deaths at higher rates than their white counterparts.

We need to reform our broken, underfunded inadequate transportation system to provide more options for older Americans. We needed smart, targeted investments that factor in the needs of our elders. Older Americans should not feel locked out of opportunity.

To learn more about advocacy to create a more equitable transportation system, please visit:

Davin said...

Susan hit on a lot of great points here. It's important to remember just how crucial transportation is to the lives of most Americans. Elders in particular often rely on regional transit systems for access to economic opportunities, health care, and places of worship. These systems are chronically underfunded and too often don't meet the needs of everyone in their communities.

Transportation equity isn't just about access to transit systems. It's also about ensuring that our roadways and public spaces are safe for pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and drivers. A recent report showed that elders are tragically overrepresented in national pedestrian fatality statistics.

It's time to send a message to our elected officials. Americans - and elders in particular - need more equitable transportation policies. Join the cause at Together we can build a more just, prosperous, and connected America.

National Assoc. for State Community said...

Thanks for this important post.

CSBG-funded Community Action Agencies help over 93 thousand people gain access to transportation. Since these state-managed local agencies serve over 2 million older Americans, this means our efforts provide much-needed services to seniors in communities around the country who would otherwise not have access to transportation.

It’s important to remember that supports for older Americans come from a wide variety of federal funding streams that are all under threat right now from budget cuts. CSBG-funded agencies coordinate services, conduct community needs assessments and provide services that address economic security for all Americans, including those over 65.

Support for CSBG funding is support for older Americans!

Kit Keller said...

Well said Susan! By 2025, one in four drivers will be over age 65. This statistic, noted at the 2011 American Planning Association conference, is beginning to be take hold in planning circles.

The International Scan on Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety and Mobility in Europe makes the point that we need to integrate walking and bicycling with public transit to ensure a sustainable transportation system.

Those of us who live in places where we can walk, bike, or take transit to most of our destinations are truly blessed! We enjoy a healthier more frugal lifestyle and are part of a caring community that watches out for each other.