Rail does not address the needs of seniors
During a recent visit to three mainland cities with rail transit, City Council members learned that seniors citizens are a latent market for rail, according to a Sept. 21 Star-Bulletin story
. But elders who are physically and mentally able to ride trains and buses likely will continue driving their own cars, to stay independently active as long as possible.
Planners ignore basic needs of the elderly folks who might use rail. How close will rail be to Queen's, Kuakini, St. Francis/West, Kaiser, other hospitals, medical clinics and Long's, Safeway or Times? Besides, rail will be limited to a short, narrow corridor to serve a tiny fraction of the universe. Seniors eventually suffer multiple disabilities to prevent continued driving or patronage of conventional transit. Walks and waits to hop on buses and trains are time-consuming, exposing them to hazards from predators, accidents, inclement weather and unlit paths. As they become frail, slow moving and disoriented, walking any distance -- to and from bus stops, crossing busy streets -- is difficult. Lone elderly people account for a growing number of fatal pedestrian accidents. Older pedestrians comprise 23 percent of all pedestrian accidents, while representing only 13 percent of the U.S. population.
Many fear bus rides due to swaying, rocking and sudden stops causing falls and broken bones. Herding seniors on long, out-of-the-way rides can be embarrassing (many are on diuretics that cause "accidents.") Getting on the wrong bus or missing the stop happens, too.
From 1997 to 2004, TheBus ridership dropped by 7,336,904 (a 10.69 percent decline); HandiVan saw an increase of 555,190, or 290.55 percent. Bus operating costs increased by $19,847,941; HandiVan's by $13,712,851. In 2004, the unlinked trip cost difference for HandiVan at $22.21 was about 10.5 times higher than TheBus' $1.94/trip.
Between 2000 and 2030, Oahu's over-60 population is projected to increase by 134,157, or 89 percent (from 150,193 to 284,350), to become 25.4 percent (from 17 percent in 2000) of Oahu's total 1,117,300 projected population in 2030.
Assigning seniors to transit-oriented developments "to age in place" is exploitive social engineering: to control and limit seniors' freedom of mobility and contacts. TODs isolate the elderly by severely restricting visitor and tenant parking. Stores and restaurants in TODs use up scarce parking on nights, weekends and holidays when seniors look forward to having visitors. Will most seniors leave their homes to live alone in TOD communes away from family?
The massive costs to transport seniors and disabled seems to be overlooked while the leaders of our town focus on multi-billion dollars in capital and operation and maintenance costs for rail. There is no serious transportation planning for the Baby Boomers and earlier generations, as if their needs will simply disappear through neglect, same as how potholes and traffic congestion got so bad statewide.
Dale Evans is president of Charley's Taxi. She has 40 years of transportation experience and has participated in the transit planning process on the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization's Citizens Advisory Committee since 1986.