Connecticut is the 7th oldest state in the nation with the 3rd longest-lived average life expectancy, at 80.8 years. Transportation is “the vital link,” according to a new report, “that connects residents across the lifespan with their communities and the elements of a vibrant and engaged life.” By 2025, at least 20 percent of the population in every Connecticut town (except Mansfield and New Haven) will be age 65 or older, according to projections. As the state considers a range of transportation options – all carrying considerable price-tags – the impact of various alternatives on the state’s fast-growing senior population was the focus of a statewide survey and report led by the Connecticut’s Legislative Commission on Aging.
The Commission’s Transportation Policy Brief, issued last month, was prepared in partnership with the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association and the Capitol Region Council of Governments. Among the key findings:
- Connecticut’s older adults are currently more likely than any other age group to rely on their cars as their primary form of transportation. Currently, 82% of all Connecticut adults use their cars as their primary form of transportation, versus 92% of adults age 50 and older.
- However, Connecticut residents want to become less car-dependent. Compared to today (82%), 10% fewer Connecticut adults (72%) plan to use their cars as their primary form of transportation in the future. Moreover, 47% of Connecticut adults reported currently living in a suburb where most people drive to most places, but only 8% of Connecticut adults want to live there in the future.
The report calls for the state and municipalities to create environments that promote equity, environmental sustainability and support healthier lifestyles for everyone; retrofitting car-dominated infrastructure for the safety of all users; rebuilding the street as a public space for social experience; supporting economic activity, and sustaining, coordinating and growing both fixed route and demand-responsive transportation options.
Connecticut residents, especially older residents, are looking for transportation alternatives, according to the online survey conducted for the Commission this year by the Harris Poll:
- Connecticut residents intend to use public transit more in the future, especially older adults. Among adults 66 years of age and older, more (12 percentage point increase) plan to use the bus as their primary form of transportation in the future (14%), compared to today (2%).
- More Connecticut residents plan to bike in the future, with the highest increases for the 50-65-year-old age group (13 percentage point increase) and 66 years and older age group (9 percentage point increase).
- Creating a more walkable infrastructure is a top priority for Connecticut residents, second only to maintaining existing transportation systems (41%). Among new public investments, the strongest demand by Connecticut residents is for new sidewalks and pedestrians crossings (38%).
The survey also found that as economic uncertainty continues, 43% of Connecticut adults identified keeping transportation costs low to be a high priority. The survey found that 28% of Connecticut adults said the quality of life, including community transportation features, was the single most important factor in choosing where to live, ranking higher than friends and family living there (17%) or job prospects (11%).
“The Commission recognizes that continued strategic investments, as well as critical policy expansions and transformations, are necessary to shape a transportation system that values community and much as it values mobility” said Julia Evans Starr, Executive Director of the Commission.
Fixed route transportation operates along a prescribed route and on a fixed schedule, and includes buses and light rail. In 2014 in Connecticut, buses provided over 43 million passenger trips and rail provided over 39 million passenger trips. Demand-responsive transportation provides routes and scheduling more individually tailored to the needs of the user. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires transit agencies to provide paratransit service, subject to certain parameters, to people with disabilities who cannot use the fixed route services. Paratransit ridership in Connecticut in fiscal year 2014 under the ADA totaled over one million rides, and dial-a-ride ridership neared 100,000 rides.
Among the report’s 12 recommendations were a call to “incentivize and enhance funding for municipalities to engage in transit-oriented development in conducive locations to ensure that compact, walkable, mixed-used, mixed-income communities are located within a reasonable distance of quality, dependable public transportation.” In addition, policy makers were urged to “identify funding streams to sustain, coordinate, grow and make more convenient both fixed route and demand-responsive transportation options (including providing door-to-door service), and provide technical assistance to support regionalization efforts.”
The report also advocated efforts that would “enhance collaboration with non-transportation partners, including those in housing, health care, public health, planning and zoning, social services, law enforcement, and the business community, among others.” Improved data collection regarding key risk factors in road traffic injuries, and research into self-driving vehicles were also recommended.
Between 2010 and 2040, Connecticut’s population of people age 65 and older is projected to grow by 57 percent, but its population of people age 20 to 64 is projected to grow by less than 2 percent.
For more information and to read the full report visit the Legislative Commission on Aging website at www.cga.ct.gov.coa