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Transit access, information helps keep seniors mobile

Transit access, information helps keep seniors mobile

Our nation is undergoing a significant demographic shift. By 2050, the number of Americans aged 65 and older will more than double, while those 85 and older could increase fivefold. This population can face challenges that include increased poverty, isolation, and difficulty accessing medical care.

Photo of seniors aboard a transit busDOT has long been committed to helping older Americans continue to live with dignity in urban and rural communities alike by making a special effort to meet the transportation and mobility needs of America’s seniors.

A key point of collaboration is the Federal Interagency Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM), which is chaired by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. In recent years, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has worked with our CCAM partners to award grants in more than three dozen states and territories to install one-call, one-click access to transportation, with a special focus on military veterans and their families, many of whom are seniors.

For example, patients at the VA clinic in Lee County, Florida, will be able to arrange for rides using a computer kiosk installed on-site.

To get the most out of taxpayer dollars, we’re also helping improve coordination among local transportation resources that already exist.

Working with Easter Seals and other industry partners, the FTA has launched a new National Center for Mobility Management that will, among other things, develop a database of best practices to help seniors access transportation. Mobility management improves customer service by encouraging partnerships among transportation, both public and private, at the local level.

In FY2012, FTA provided over $40 million for mobility management projects, a 4% increase over FY2011. Today there are more than 400 mobility managers nationwide, and over half of the states are planning one-call centers.

The budget forecast for mobility support is mixed. On the one hand, MAP-21, our current authorization, enhances funding and services for seniors and others. It increases spending for rural transportation by 25%, which will benefit some of the nation’s lowest-income and most transit-dependent seniors. And, importantly, MAP-21 allows the FTA to combine our own investments with matching funds drawn from other federal programs such as Medicaid and Head Start.

But FY 2013 appropriations, the sequester, and continuing resolutions have left FTA unable to fund even modest technical assistance for grantees, reducing our ability to improve transportation coordination at a time when it is needed most.

Despite these and other challenges, we must continue helping communities fill the gaps in transportation for seniors. Oftentimes, seniors don’t know the options that are available to them or how to connect with them.  We need to continue supporting mobility managers and similar initiatives across the country to foster even greater connectivity.


Therese McMillan is Deputy Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.

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When I was at a national transit conference in Washington recently, I made a point of mentioning that two things will help keep seniors independent -- transit and driverless cars. I think we forget how important mobility is for people, especially when their eyesight and reaction times aren't the same as when they were young. Most seniors want to take care of themselves for as long as they can, and mobility helps them do that.