As the following articles and pictures make clear, public transit plays a vital role in our society. When you use public transit on a routine basis, you are helping maintain this critical service to all of our communities.
America's first driving generation is retiring. Having worked through one of the largest economic expansions in history, they are also one of the wealthiest generations. For many, their American Dream took place in suburbs and exurbs, away from public transportation. And as many of these boomers "age in place," they will find it increasingly difficult to get around.
According to a new study by Transportation for America ("Aging in Place, Stuck Without Options"), most baby boomers have no intention of moving as they age. More than 70% over the age of 45 plan to stay in their current homes as long as possible. Only 9% want to ultimately move to a care facility. It is likely that nearly 80% of seniors in coming years will live in suburban or rural areas.
There are approximately 40 million seniors in the United States today. One in five does not drive. And half of these non-driving seniors basically don't leave the house because they have no transportation options other than driving.
That means 4 million seniors in the United States right now are essentially prisoners in their own homes because they are "aging in place" and happen to live somewhere that offers them no real, viable option for getting around without driving. With the first of the nearly 80 million baby boomers turning 65 this year, the number of seniors facing this predicament will skyrocket.
What does the lack of options really mean for seniors stuck at home? It means 15% fewer trips to the doctor. 59% fewer shopping and restaurant trips. 65% fewer trips to see family, friends, and do other social activities.
America's senior population will balloon to 72 million by 2030 so if we don't rapidly expand and improve transit across the nation, 7.5 million of them will have extremely limited access to transportation options. If nothing is done, smaller metro and suburban areas (places with less than 250,000 people) will find that 62% of their seniors will have little or no access to transit.
Public Transportation Benefits
Public transportation in the United States is a crucial part of the solution to the nation’s economic, energy, and environmental challenges - helping to bring a better quality of life. In increasing numbers, people are using public transportation and local communities are expanding public transit services. Every segment of American society - individuals, families, communities, and businesses - benefits from public transportation.
Public Transportation Consists of a Variety of Modes
- Trolleys and light rail
- Commuter trains
- Cable cars
- Van pool services
- Paratransit services for Senior citizens and people with disabilities
- Ferries and water taxis
- Monorails and tramways
- In 2010, Americans took 10.2 billion trips on public transportation.
- 35 million times each weekday, people board public transportation.
- From 1995 through 2010, public transportation ridership increased by 31%—a growth rate higher than the 17% increase in U.S. population and higher than the 24% growth in the use of the nation’s highways over the same period.
- Investment in the public transportation industry creates and supports over 1.9 million public and private sector jobs and is a $55 billion a year industry.
- More than 7,200 organizations provide public transportation in the United States.
Public Transportation Enhances Personal Opportunities
- Public transportation provides personal mobility and freedom for people from every walk of life.
- Access to public transportation gives people transportation options to get to work, go to school, visit friends, or go to a doctor’s office.
- Public transportation provides access to job opportunities for millions of Americans.
Public Transportation Saves Fuel, Reduces Congestion
- Access to bus and rail lines reduces driving by 4,400 miles per household annually.
- Americans living in areas served by public transportation save 785 million hours in travel time and 640 million gallons of fuel annually in congestion reduction alone.
- Without public transportation, congestion costs would have been an additional $19 billion.
Public Transportation Provides Economic Opportunities
- For every $1 invested in public transportation, $4 in economic returns is generated.
- Every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates 36,000 jobs.
- Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business sales.
- Every $10 million in operating investment yields $32 million in increased business sales.
Public Transportation Saves Money
- The average household spends 18 cents of every dollar on transportation, and 94% of this goes to buying, maintaining, and operating cars, the largest expenditure after housing.
- Public transportation provides an affordable, and for many, necessary, alternative to driving.
- Households that are likely to use public transportation on a given day save more than $10,000 every year.
Public Transportation Reduces Gasoline ConsumptionPublic transportation’s overall effects save the United States
- 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually: more than 3 times the amount of gasoline imported from Kuwait.
- Households near public transit drive an average of 4,400 fewer miles than households with no access to public transit. This equates to an individual household reduction of 223 gallons per year.
Public Transportation Reduces Carbon Footprint
- Communities that invest in public transit reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually: equivalent to if New York City; Washington, DC; Atlanta; Denver; and Los Angeles combined stopping using electricity.
- One person switching to public transit can reduce daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds, or more than 4,800 pounds in a year.
- A single commuter switching his or her commute to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10%, or up to 30% if he or she eliminates a second car. When compared to other household actions that limit CO, taking public transportation can be 10 times greater in reducing this harmful greenhouse gas.