I recently read another interesting report from our friends at Arizona PIRG. This time, they are discussing the aging population in the Phoenix area, particularly the needs of elderly people to have access to affordable public transportation. As we mentioned recently, we have seen increased demand for affordable housing along the line. While the younger crowd is often thought of when people talk about “urban living”, our nation’s elderly also seem to be looking at the conveniences of living near public transit. Living close to restaurants, shops, and entertainment along with grocery stores, drug stores and medical facilities can be useful and affordable.
Here’s a copy of their press release:
New Report: Arizona’s Seniors Will Face Poor Mobility Options
56 percent of Phoenix seniors will have poor access to public transportation in near future:
By 2015, at least 56 percent of Phoenix-area residents ages 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or non-existent, a new study shows. That number is expected to continue to grow rapidly as the baby boom generation “ages in place” in suburbs and exurbs with few mobility options for those who do not drive.
The report, Aging in Place, Stuck without Options, ranks metro areas by the percentage of seniors with poor access to public transportation, now and in the coming years, and presents other data on aging and transportation. It shows that in just four years, 56% percent of seniors in Phoenix, 49% of the seniors in Tucson, and 57% of the seniors in Flagstaff will live in neighborhoods with poor access to options other than driving. In the Phoenix area, it is expected that by 2015, 247,977 seniors will not have good access to transit. These conditions present a daunting challenge to Arizona’s communities as a larger share of their population demands increased mobility options.
“This report shows that a significant segment of our population – one that heavily relies on public transportation – currently doesn’t have good access to transit and that problem is only going to get worse,” said Serena Unrein, Public Interest Advocate for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. In the next twenty years, the number of Arizonans aged 65 and older is expected to grow by more than 150 percent.
Such a small percentage of older American actually relocate that researchers already are seeing the emergence of so-called “naturally occurring retirement communities.” That phenomenon is growing as baby boomers begin to turn 65.
“We are living longer and eventually age-related impairments force us to give up driving. Accessible, affordable public transportation is the key. It allows us to stay in our homes, to stay in our own neighborhoods, and to be near our friends so that we are not forced to have to move away. This is what people want as we age,” said Steve Jennings, AARP Arizona Advocacy Director, “Public transportation to which people can walk, and which does not cost too much is what makes staying in our neighborhoods possible.”
“The baby boom generation grew up and reared their own children in communities that, for the first time in human history, were built on the assumption that everyone would be able to drive an automobile,” said John Robert Smith, president and CEO of Reconnecting America and co-chair of Transportation for America. “What happens when people in this largest generation ever, with the longest predicted lifespan ever, outlive their ability to drive for everything? That’s one of the questions we set out to answer in this report.”
Without access to affordable travel options, 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, research shows. As the cost of owning and fuelling a vehicle rises, many older Americans who can still drive nonetheless will be looking for lower-cost options.
“Our elected officials here in Arizona need to make sure that seniors don’t end up stuck in life as they drive less,” said Unrein. “Older Arizonans should be able to remain mobile, active and independent. That’s going to require alternatives to driving.”
Aging in Place, Stuck without Options outlines a number of policy recommendations:
- Increase funding support for communities looking to improve service such as buses, trains, vanpools, paratransit and ridesharing;
- Provide funding and incentives for transit operators, nonprofit organizations, and local communities to engage in innovative practices;
- Encourage state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, and transit operators to involve seniors and the community stakeholders in developing plans for meeting the mobility needs of older adults;
- Ensure that state departments of transportation retain their authority to “flex” a portion of highway funds for transit projects and programs;
- Include a “complete streets” policy to ensure that streets and intersections around transit stops are safe and inviting for seniors.
To view the full report and to see the extended rankings, please visit Transportation for America’s website.
So, what’s in store for the future of the housing market near the Phoenix light rail line? We know that recently announced projects like Encore on Farmer are a step in the right direction, but will more empty nesters hang with the cool kids at places Hayden Ferry Lakeside? What about places like Tapestry on Central across from the Heard Museum and just a short trip to hospital and medical facilities. Will those things appeal to an aging population? I think so…
What should / could be done in the future to help the Phoenix area become a more viable option for all demographics to have more housing options that are less car dependent? Well, it can start with educating the public, city officials, and advocacy groups about the benefits of housing near transportation. With access to existing and proposed transportation options, more people will easily get to restaurants, grocery stores, medical facilities and more for day to day living necessities. Luckily, here in our “city within cities” along our METRO light rail line, people can also get to many sporting activities, multi-generational centers, multiple cultural amenities and lifelong learning opportunities from these walk-able communities. They say that with age comes wisdom. Well, to me, the fact that there has been more discussion about older generations seeking a more urban lifestyle, that seems pretty darn smart…