In 1957 4.3 million Americans were born, representing the pinnacle of the baby boom. Today those 4.3 million American babies are 58 years old. They’ve been productive, they’ve built great families, great businesses and helped build a great country. It’s now time for the next chapter in their lives; retirement.
As the largest generation of Americans move on to their golden years, there will be a sea-change among many industries in the United States. Senior transportation services and paratransit is an industry that has been bracing and preparing for years for what has become known as the ‘silver tsunami’.
How is the paratransit industry preparing for the eventual major influx of riders? For one thing, this new generation of elderly are not the elders of the past. Baby boomers have more in common with teenagers than their parents. They tend to walk more, have an understanding of technology and generally don’t want to be tied down by a car.
The use of technology allows them to demand transportation services. A push of the button and a car service like Uber can provide transport in just a matter of minutes. As a result the paratransit industry has competition that it didn’t have in the past. Both the clientele’s mentality and the nature of free-enterprise conspired to challenge the paratransit industry more than expected even just a few years ago.
Paratransit has traditionally relied on schedules and reservations but as technology progresses the industry has to move to a more real-time solution. Whether or not agencies adapt will ultimately decide their fate. While no one is quite ready to propose paratransit agencies adopt Uber’s business model, there are areas where many agencies can improve their services. Updating software and/or disciplining themselves to utilize their current software more efficiently are obvious examples.
As people age, the desire to use public transportation evolves into the need to use public transportation. Each year there are more and more people reaching that stage in life. Not only is prompt service and accessibility important to them but, for many, price is also an issue in senior transportation services.
If transportation agencies follow trends and allow themselves to grow alongside the public’s needs, they will remain efficient. Proper planning allows agencies to forecast fares in the future and then work to keep fares down.
The Reality of Senior Transportation and PACE Agency
Some agencies have planned ahead to 2020 while some haven’t even planned the end of 2015. Both types of agencies will find challenges in their tactics. Far-sighted agencies will not have planned correctly while short-sighted will be caught completely off-guard. Regardless, the future is coming and knowing what to expect rather than relying on data from the past is crucial.
The birthday candle industry stands to do quite well in 2015. This year alone, there’s a market for almost 2.5 billion candles to sell for people turning 58. The paratransit industry should also be excited since their client base is getting larger each day. The tsunami is heading ashore. The future is up to how agencies respond to this influx of new passengers and whether they are willing to adapt.
About the Author
Read Ecolane's blog articles for perspective, opinion and information on transit and paratransit issues.