How Rapid Transit Benefits Our Aging Population

Age Wave

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) benefits people of all demographics and backgrounds. Whether you’re a business professional who lives downtown and would rather not brave interstate 64 to get to work in the West End, or a VCU student without a car who would like to experience everything that Richmond has to offer, RVA Rapid Transit is designed to serve everyone who wants to ride.

BRT will be particularly effective in addressing the needs of our senior population. Providing them with adequate transportation options will be increasingly difficult as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age.  According to a Brookings Institution Study, by 2030 one in five Americans will be over the age of 65 and one in 11 Americans will be over the age of 85.  According to a Transportation for America Study,  many of these seniors tend not to move after they reach retirement age, preferring to “age in place” ( pg 3).

Additionally, a 2004 study found that seniors age 65 and older who no longer drive make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor, 59 percent fewer trips to shop or eat out, and 65 percent fewer trips to visit friends and family, than drivers of the same age. And a 2008 study by AARP found that 85% of older Americans were extremely concerned or very concerned about rising fuel prices, causing them to consider alternative modes of transportation. 20% of seniors over the age of 65 do not drive at all.

The Brookings Institution study notes, “over the last decade older people have made less use of public transit. However older people would consider using this mode if services were provided in ways that better met their needs. To make transit services more appropriate for older people, federal, state,  and metropolitan policies and programs should encourage or require, as well as finance, four major categories of public transit developments: improving conventional service, increasing safety and security in all parts of the system, enhancing communication and information, and providing additional services more carefully targeted to the elderly.” Both the Transit for America Study and the Brookings Institution study suggest designing public transit to be accessible to seniors and making pedestrian sidewalks safe and accessible for seniors.

    Locally, the United Way of Greater Richmond’s Age Wave Study arrived at similar findings to these national studies.  According to the study, the population of people over the age of 65 in Metro-Richmond is projected to double by 2030. The Age Wave study provides a framework to support an increasingly elderly population including:

  •     An Engaged Community that gives back through civic participation and volunteerism.
  •     A Livable community that has affordable housing, accessible public transportation, and makes the effort to comply with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
  •     A Stable community where adults have access to jobs that provide financial stability and allow people to save for retirement.
  •     A Well Community that provides for the medical needs of an aging population.

RVA Rapid Transit is an important step toward making the Richmond region more liveable for seniors. This system of rapid mass transit will allow them to “age in place” while retaining access to the services they need and the amenities they enjoy.