Aging Baby Boomers Could Be The Boost America's Public Transit Needs

Baby Boomers are getting older. Their eyesight isn't what it used to be, and their reaction time is slowing. Even if they've been faithful drivers all their lives, their primary means of getting around might start to shift away from the car. Which is great news for public transit in the U.S.

The AARP has released a new "livability index" that studies what Americans 50 and older are looking for in the places they choose to live. The hope is that cities can use the information to help design communities which are more amenable to aging residents, which will end up being a growing part of our society. The data includes information from Boomers about the kind of neighborhoods they want to live in and how they want to interact with their community.

And what's the one thing that Baby Boomers most want within a mile of their homes? A bus stop.

Aging Baby Boomers Could Be The Boost America's Public Transit Needs

It makes sense: Although a grocery store or pharmacy can help Boomers fulfill their daily needs, a bus stop signals freedom—the ability to access the city and all it has to offer without a car. In fact, transit-accessibility and walkability are two of the biggest considerations according to the survey: Most non-drivers told the AARP that they specifically moved to a community that was pedestrian-friendly.

This is very good news for transit systems. While it's been shown that Americans are riding transit in greater numbers, the percentage of the population that uses transit is nowhere near the numbers that we used to see in the 1950s (back when these Baby Boomers were just babies). Transit systems need to see an increase in ridership in order to add and improve services, and secure the necessary funding to expand. More and more Baby Boomers—the largest cohort of Americans—are slowly moving into the "transit-dependent" category as they age. Not only that, they prefer buses over more expensive subways (as you'll notice, Train/Subway makes the list, but much further down). Cities would be wise to invest in their bus lines.

As they get older, Baby Boomers could deliver the numbers that many transit systems need to stay profitable. It also means Baby Boomers have an awful lot in common with another generation that's turning away from driving: Millennials. [AARP via Atlantic Cities]

Gerald Herbert/AP