America’s population is aging, and that means an increasing number of seniors will need the services of public transportation. But statistics are pointing to a growing problem;seniors don’t utilize the public transit system.
For some seniors, it’s a matter of cost. For others, public transit is an inconvenience. Some have fears about safety and potential crime. Addressing these concerns will require a combination of educational programs and a more responsive and adaptive transit system.
Here are 5 reasons seniors are reluctant to use public transportation, and what the public transit system can do to help.
1. Reliability and Convenience: Too many local transit systems have stops which are far from home for seniors, immediately removing public transportation as an option. Even when seniors live close enough to specified transit stops, they’re put off by a service that is often late or unreliable in other ways. Some cities have addressed the problem by instituting grid systems, allowing for a greater number of local stops closer to the locations seniors tend to live at. Others will need to do the same if they hope to service more of the senior community. As we’ve often discussed on this blog, implementing transportation management software and/or route scheduling software can help ensure more reliable and effective transit services.
2. Lack of Comfort: Standing for long periods of time can be daunting for many seniors, especially those with physical disabilities. For this reason, transit systems around the United States are moving to install more benches at stops. This little change can make a big difference in ridership so when preparing for the silver tsunami’s imminent arrival, public transportation systems should take note.
3. Crime: Being the victim of crime is a concern for all transit riders, but that concern is greater for those who may be more vulnerable. As with transit scheduling, technology offers cities a solution: , which are well advertised, deter crime and provide added reassurance for seniors (and all riders).
4. Expense: Transit costs for seniors are lower than for other riders. Recently passed federal legislation requires that seniors pay half of the normal fare in off-peak hours. Unfortunately, many seniors who don’t regularly use public transportation may not be aware of these discounts. Public transit systems need to actively market to and educate seniors about these discounts.
5. A Confusing Transit Network: Even for those of us who are skilled at map reading, interpreting transit maps can be a real challenge. For new riders or for seniors who have no prior experience with public transportation, finding your way around an area by looking at a map can be intimidating. The fear of taking the wrong bus or train keeps many from utilizing these services. Here again, education is the answer. Transit agencies can address this concern by sponsoring training classes for seniors, arming them with the directional information they need to feel empowered.
The number of seniors is increasing and for many, getting from their homes to shopping centers, doctor appointments or anywhere becomes a necessity. Without access to cars, many seniors are still hesitant to take advantage of public transportation. Public transit agencies need to address these concerns through proactive steps such as making existing , installing on-board cameras, providing more seating at stops, and perhaps most important effective educational programs for all their potential riders.