June 14, 2011 / 10:22 PM / 8 years ago

Poor public transit called threat to older Americans

BOSTON (Reuters) - Communities that now rely almost solely on automobiles will face problems as today’s baby boomers turn into tomorrow’s seniors and have limited public transit options.

A new study says more than 15.5 million seniors, aged 65 to 79, will have poor or nonexistent access to public transportation by 2015.

Many outlying suburbs and “exurbs” simply have few options for getting around for those who do not drive.

“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,” said John Robert Smith, co-chair of Transportation for America, a coalition pushing for better public transportation.

Access to public transit can be an issue for quality of life, or even a matter of life and death.

Without affordable travel options, seniors 65 and older who no longer drive make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor and 65 percent fewer trips to see family and friends.

Among large metropolitan areas, 90 percent of seniors in metro Atlanta will live in neighborhoods with poor access to options other than driving, said the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

Riverside-San Bernardino, Houston, Detroit and Dallas also rank high as locations with poor public transport. Among smaller metro areas, public transit will be scarce for seniors in Kansas city, Oklahoma City and Nashville, among others.

The New York metropolitan area has the best access to public transit for seniors, the group said.

Many seniors keep driving until well up in years. But for those on a fixed income, the cost of owing and fueling a car could be prohibitive.

Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Jerry Norton

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