The number of senior citizens is expected to double by the year 2020, representing 18% of the nation’s population. After age 75, driving performance begins to decline due to changes in health and medication effects. Indeed, one quarter of seniors over 75 are expected to require alternative transportation services in the future. This chapter examines transit and innovative mobility options to better meet the needs of the growing older population in the near (2011) and more distant (2021) future.
Barriers to transit use among older adults include anxiety and confusion about using transit; inconvenience; cost and payment; safety; and physical discomfort. Emerging intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technologies can help to overcome these barriers and provide alternative mobility options, such as real-time information, simpler payment, demand-responsive door-to-door services, carsharing, and smart parking linked to transit. Other approaches include user training, smaller and more comfortable vehicles, and low-floor buses. While the scaling and cost reduction benefits of ITS are exciting, there are several obstacles to wide-scale deployment. One of the most significant is coordination among health and human service and transportation providers, particularly in suburban and rural locations. Some operators already struggle to provide services, and many staffers have limited experience with ITS technology. Thus, a concerted effort is needed across many different types of transit agencies to share information and compatible technologies. In the future, coordination strategies and ITS technologies will play a critical role in providing more flexibility, convenience, and choice for older travelers.