(Billings, MT – YPR) – A national report says by 2015 most aging baby boomers will live where public transportation is poor or non-existent. This is a problem for those seniors who no longer drive. The report says that will trap them in their homes.
The report by Transportation for America is called: “Aging in Place, Stuck without Options: Fixing the Mobility Crisis Threatening the Baby Boom Generation.”
The report found Atlanta, Riverside-San Bernadino, and Houston to be the large metro areas with the poorest transit options for senior citizens. (For more on Atlanta's transportation system, check out the TN documentary "Back of the Bus: Race, Mass Transit and Inequality."
During a national telephone press conference call, Reconnecting America President and CEO John Robert Smith says the lack of public transportation is most notable in the suburbs and small cities and towns.
“Often times the transit connections from your front door to the grocery stores simply don’t exist,” he says.
One of the small metro areas studied in the report is Billings, Montana. The south central Montana community is the largest in the state and a regional hub for medical, financial and retail services.
When compared to other communities nationwide, Billings ranks fairly high for senior access to public transit.
Ron Wenger is the manager for the city of Billings Met Transit. He says making sure seniors have access to public transportation is a priority.
“For Billings specifically the study shows that less than 4% of the seniors in the city have a poor transit option,” Wenger says. He says that’s excellent when compared to other cities of comparable size in the survey.
Wenger adds the city’s para-transit system will pick up seniors, including those who are wheelchair bound, at their front door and deliver them to the grocery store, to medical appointments, or anywhere else.
Wenger notes, however, for those who live outside the city limits the report projects by 2015 87-percent of seniors will have poor to no-access to public transportation.
That is a concern for Riverstone Health, a community health center. Spokeswoman Barbara Schneeman says it’s not practical to ask seniors from nearby farm and ranch communities to move into the city.
“There’s a lot of wonderful, wonderful history and generations that are out in our rural farming communities,” she says. “That’s awfully hard to leave behind.”
That also isn’t being promoted by transportation advocacy groups.
John Robert Smith says there is no single solution. He calls for community based solutions, but he notes funding is needed in the Transportation Reauthorization bill being considered in Congress. Montana Senator Max Baucus is a lead negotiator. He chairs the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Senate panel that writes the reauthorization bill.