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Culture

Aging drivers = changing transportation system

Chris Woodward   (OneNewsNow.com) Saturday, November 17, 2012

Though a transportation expert disagrees with a news story that America's aging drivers present a transportation challenge, he does think there are implications as to how people will get around.

According to the Associated Press, baby boomers started driving at a young age, got married, built families and acquired multiple automobiles. They also moved out of town and into the suburbs, while more people were moving from rural areas into towns and cities. Meanwhile, more women began working outside of the home, thus putting more automobiles on the roadways and increasing traffic.

So, with thousands of boomers turning 65 each day, how long people in this population continue to work, where they choose to live and what methods of transportation they use will have important ramifications for all Americans, according to AP. For instance, if boomers stop commuting in large numbers, will rush hours ease? As age erodes their driving skills, will there be a greater demand for more public transportation?

Scribner

Marc Scribner, fellow in land-use and transportation studies for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), discusses some of the factors involved in this issue.

"I wouldn't necessarily say it's a challenge, but there are definitely implications as to how people, as they age, are going to be moving around in the future, especially given that we have so many new technologies coming online. And we're also seeing broader demographic shifts on where people chose to live," he tells OneNewsNow.

Scribner goes on to describes those "implications" and how they might affect the transportation system.

"For about the past century, we've being seeing a shift from people living in rural areas to urbanized areas, where trip distances on average are shorter than if you're living in a rural location," he notes. "That to the transit advocates means opportunity for rolling out more transit services."

Though he is not opposed to expanding transit, the CEI fellow is opposed to what most people think of as transit in big buses and trains.

"Especially when you're talking about the elderly, I think paratransit -- using mini-buses and jitneys can be far more effective, and you're also allowing them access to more personalized mobility," he remarks. "But the big game-changer I think we're going to see is the roll-out of truly driverless car technology. You won't even need to be a licensed driver to take a single-person trip in a vehicle."

In an unrelated announcement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in October that the federal government would be launching a new research effort to determine the safety and reliability of technologies that enable cars to drive themselves.

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