Age-friendly report calls for better sidewalk maintenance, transportation improvements

By 2017, officials want D.C. to be a World Health Organization-defined “age-friendly” city for older adults. A report released by the Coalition for Smarter Growth today finds that, while the city has policies in place that work toward this goal, there are many improvements to pedestrian and transportation infrastructure needed.

Adults older than 65 make up 11.4 percent of D.C.’s population, and are primarily concentrated in Wards 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7. In D.C., 30 percent of older adult women and 20 percent of older adults men live alone. While many older adults depend on vehicles for transportation, 66 percent of renters over the age of 65 do not own a car.

These adults rely on sidewalks that are not as well-maintained as they should be, the report found, and transportation that is not as age-friendly as possible. For example, just 31 percent of Metrobus stops are considered accessible. The report recommends making “100 percent of bus stops in the District accessible (an increase of 69 percent), starting with the 28 stops that WMATA has identified as priority stops based on feedback from MetroAccess customers. These stops are a high priority because of the potential they have to transition an eligible portion of MetroAccess customers to fixed route service.”

Dedicated, adequate funding for sidewalk maintenance and repair is recommended, as a D.C. Department of Transportation official has said $28 million is needed to address the backlog of requests. This year’s fiscal budget addressed that, but not future backlog, the report states.

Beyond physical changes, the report calls for the creation of several positions — including a mobility management staff — and better data collection. Of the 12 pedestrian deaths in D.C. last year, four were adults over 65. Long-term data collection on pedestrian and cyclist collisions is in place, but real-time information is needed for “targeted improvement in a timely manner.

“The best policies and projects focus on improving the pedestrian environment, making public transit more accessible and usable, and encouraging innovative, coordinated and efficient specialized transportation services,” the report states. “Specific improvements that should be vigorously pursued include the funding and maintenance of safe sidewalks, crossings, and public amenities; securing funding for critical capital improvements to the region’s public transportation system; and establishing a mobility management system that aids older residents in navigating their transportation options.”

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