‘Transportation poverty’ predicted for Cincinnati’s aging Baby Boomer population

A new report, Aging in Place, Stuck without Options: Fixing the Mobility Crisis Threatening the Baby Boom Generation, released by Transportation for America finds that more than 64 percent of Cincinnati’s population between the ages of 65 and 79 will have poor transit access by 2015. In the Cincinnati metropolitan area, that accounts for approximately 200,000 people.

The Cincinnati region is not alone when it comes to providing adequate transit options to a growing aging population. Out of 48 regions studied with 1-3 million people, Cincinnati ranked as the 17th worst. Columbus and Cleveland, meanwhile, ranked as the 18th and 24th worst respectively.

The lack of transit options provided in the regions studied is matched by an increasing number of seniors utilizing public transit. A 2011 report from the AARP Public Policy Institute found that the total number of trips by seniors on public transit grew 51 percent between 2001 and 2009, and that seniors now account for nearly 10 percent of all trips taken on public transit in the United States.

St. Bernard bus stop photograph by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

Nancy Schuster, executive director of Independent Transportation Network of Greater Cincinnati (ITNGC), believes that these facts are on a collision course that will very soon result in transportation poverty for many Cincinnatians.

And the data comes as Cincinnatians face an important decision at the ballot box in November. Issue 48 would prohibit the City of Cincinnati from spending any money on rail transit for the next decade.

Schuster refrained from offering an official position on Issue 48, but did say that much of the focus has been on the price tag of mass transit, not on its benefits to the city and how transit serves the needs of seniors and those with disabilities.

“Hopefully we can find suitable, affordable transit options that will enable seniors and visually-impaired adults to remain independent, contributing members of our Greater Cincinnati community,” Schuster told UrbanCincy.

The Transportation for America report listed five best practices to help address the pending crisis for seniors and the disabled. Those practices include coordination between different levels of government for planning and service integration, promotion of mobility management, designing communities that accommodate all demographics, improved transportation safety, and encouraging community-based transportation programs.

“Failing to plan for mass transportation options will likely hinder the vision of Cincinnati as a retirement destination,” Schuster explained. A situation made even more troubling by the fact that more than 85 percent seniors have a strong desire to age in place.

  • A related article from the Springfield-Dayton area
    An interesting article on the AARP site talked about the use of golf cart type vehicles or the elderly.
    One of the issues I see with retirement centers/nursing homes is that they tend to detach themselves from the greater community. Residents NEED some kind of transportation just to get off the campus. The original mission of the Metropole, as a place for the elderly in a dense urban area, makes a lot of sense.

  • Jake Mecklenborg

    This is — cue the synthesizer drone — a /Long Crisis/. The Greatest Generation is now trapped in a suburban hell of their own making. They claim (especially the self-proclaimed “Depression Babies”) that they are good with their money, but most have burned through at least 15 cars in their lifetime, and will keep driving (a new car) until the day their kids (or grandkids) take away the keys. Now they must live in a retirement community on par with their friends — keeping up with the Jones’s till the day they die, even if they only have $200K in the bank versus their old next-door-neighbor’s $2 million. They WILL NOT go to the poor people’s retirement home, even if it means burdening their kids with a $3,000/mo bill.

    The big issue facing 80 year-olds these days is that they cannot sell their homes and condos for the price they bought them for 15 years ago, meaning they can’t make the jump into these retirement villages that have shuttle buses. This means they are trapped in their multi-level abodes, risking death with every trip up or down their staircase chair lift, and watching 40-60 hours of Fox News per week, pausing only to fume over the condo association banning charcoal grills.

  • More and more seniors will be lacking what they really need as the numbers grow. It is something that each place needs to work on immediately. I live in the county, of a big city. Unless one lives in a senior community the only transporation one has in a cab which can be very expensive. Lucky at this point, I am still able to drive but I do see many senior that are having difficulty. Thanks for the post.

  • It seems to me that it is less about financial issues for the Boomers, Jake. I’ve always thought of the Baby Boomers as being a very strong-minded group of people. And I think many of them have a belief that they are going to be able to get around without a problem by car (the means of transportation they built and mastered).

    The unfortunate reality is that they will not be able to do this, and they will need communities that are built in a way that offers alternatives – walking, bus, rail, etc. The other unfortunate reality is that most American cities have been ignoring investments in their infrastructure for far too long in order to keep feeding the beast that is the roadway network.

    Diverse options are needed for the elderly and the disabled, but we as a society owe it to ourselves to not pin ourselves in a corner by only offering ourselves one mode of transportation.

  • Hmm… tying this back to Cincinnati for a second…

    With the banks and the other new condo/apt. buildings on the river, I’ve noticed a lot of seniors are moving to the riverfront. Think there’s some sort of transportation system we could implement to help them get around? I don’t know, something that goes up to Findlay Market so they can buy food, maybe up to UC and/or the zoo to visit their grandchildren? If only… 😉

  • Dobbo

    Unfortunately for the past 50 years most cities in North America and other new world places such as Australia have been built for middle class fully able people with access to a car.

    Arriving in Australia from Europe and Asia, I heard the term ‘loser cruiser’ to describe a bus for the first time. The premise was… “why would you want to catch a bus to work? can’t you afford a car?” Now people are sliowly realising that buying that house that is a mere 5mins (by car) from the shops or the beach is actually a 45min (plus) walk. 5mins down a 4-6 lane arterial road at 80kmph can actually be close to 7km, not a walkable distance for many.

  • Patrick Ward

    Jake, You sound a little bitter. Aging has caught many boomers unprepared. But Transportation poverty isn’t just about poverty in terms of financial resources. It is the quality of life poverty that comes at any income level when a senior or disabled person can no longer drive. Using a walker to go two blocks to the public bus stop to go shopping, then coming home for a two block hike with a walker carring groceries isn’t just an income issue. Many seniors who no longer drive, but live independently in their own home can’t phyiscally make a trek like this. It is an isolation issue that affects everyone who no longer drives.

    Some are lucky to have family in the area, but even those realize they don’t want to be a burden. They recognize that their children have lives, soccer games, help with homework, etc. They don’t want to be dependent on children or neighbors. We need a transportation option that puts the transportation decisions back in the hands of the senior. I think ITNGreaterCincinnati is an example of a transportation alternative that does this.

    We all have an interest in this issue–a financial and safety issue–financial, because we can’t afford to support the nursing home costs at the rate of growth statistics predict; safety, because unsafe drivers at any age cost lives.