WASHINGTON, May 16, 2005
To address the transportation needs of older Americans, the public transportation industry is launching an initiative to explore new and innovative ways to help seniors stay mobile and independent.
The initiative, called "Easy Rider: Advancing Mobility Needs for Aging Americans," was developed by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) this May to coincide with Older Americans Month.
Easy Rider is a collection of successful activities, sample materials and case studies contributed by transit systems that have taken steps to make public transportation more attractive for seniors. More than 6,000 transit systems nationwide currently provide some form of service for older riders. These range from reduced fares and expanded use of low-floor vehicles to personalized travel training sessions and policies that allow drivers to deviate from bus routes to get as close as possible to requested stops.
"Aging Americans need to plan for their transportation security just as they plan for their financial security ... and I'm proud that our industry is responding to this challenge," said William W. Millar, APTA's president. "By sharing stories about transit's best practices, we will spark new and improved services in communities throughout the country."
Despite the best efforts of transit agencies, the mobility needs of America's aging population are becoming increasingly critical issues. During the next 20 years, the number of Americans age 65 and older will double -- from 35 million to 70 million. Last year a study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, AARP and APTA found that the United States is ill prepared to provide adequate transportation choices for a rapidly aging population of baby boomers.
More than half of all non-drivers age 65 and older stay at home and often become isolated largely because transportation options are limited, particularly in rural and smaller communities. This resulting isolation has serious social and economic ramifications for the nation.
"There is no single solution to this problem," said Millar. "Easy Rider promotes a broad range of programs that are helping seniors feel more comfortable and more likely to use public transportation. We want the list of successful ideas and services to grow. Easy Rider is a beginning, not a conclusion."
Over the coming months, under APTA's leadership, Easy Rider will continue to collect and share information about exemplary transportation activities. In anticipation of the White House Conference on Aging, October 23 - 26, 2005, APTA will continue to highlight the critical mobility challenges facing the nation's aging population and how transit systems are addressing these special needs. Easy Rider is an industry-wide effort that calls attention to the importance of creating and maintaining a vital, viable transit system for older Americans.
"The mobility needs of seniors are no longer simply family or personal issues, but must be a national priority," said Millar. "The most successful senior mobility programs do not operate in a vacuum. Only through federal and local partnerships that reward community collaboration will long-term, viable transportation options be available to older Americans now and in the future."
APTA is a nonprofit international association of more than 1,500 member organizations including public transportation systems; planning, design, construction and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; and state associations and departments of transportation.
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