Older adults seek a D.C. with better sidewalks, accessible cabs and age-friendly transit options

Leaders in the District of Columbia need to do more to make the city friendly to older adults–not just the thousands of millennials flocking to the city each year–by focusing on age-friendly policies that create more inclusive mobility options for the increasing older population, according to a new report from the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG).

CSG’s report, Moving an Age-Friendly DC: Transportation for All Ages, identifies both deficiencies and solutions in the existing infrastructure and service options for older adults in D.C. Three key areas for improvement are, “the pedestrian environment; public transit; and coordinating paratransit, community transportation, and private transportation services.”

The city has made strides in recent years to improve public transportation and the street environment for both pedestrians and cyclists with new bike lanes, improved crosswalks and new forms of transportation. CSG finds there is more work to be done, especially when it comes to accommodating older adults who make up 11% of the current population and will soon be joined by the aging cohort of Baby Boomers who account for 17% of the D.C. population.

“We can build great places to both grow up and grow old. From small improvements to our streetscape to better coordination of multiple transportation services, we can find many ways to make our city a better place to live for all residents,” said CSG Policy Director Cheryl Cort in a statement.

Pedestrian Improvements

The city could do more to improve sidewalks, crosswalks and the overall pedestrian experience for seniors.

CSG suggests D.C. have funding in the budget dedicated to regular maintenance and repairs to sidewalks to make sure tree roots, potholes and uneven paths are not making a few blocks walk a dangerous proposition for older pedestrians.

The organization also advocates for a system to track collisions with bicyclists and pedestrians so city agencies have data to identify high-risk intersections. Data should be made available to the public, perhaps quarterly, so residents can advocate for improvements based on both their experience and data to support their demands.

Finally, CSG suggests creating an interagency team that can coordinate senior-friendly amenities like seating, lighting and even public restrooms among agencies like the Office of Planning, the District Department of Transportation, the National Park Service and other relevant stakeholders.

Accessible Transit

A key finding of the study is that just 31% of Metrobus stops in the city qualify as fully accessible under Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Many older residents rely instead on alternative transportation like MetroAccess. Metro Access is more expensive for WMATA and less convenient for riders than the existing fixed-route transit system of buses and metro.

CSG calls on the city to make 100% of its bus stops ADA accessible.

The group also encourages the development of affordable, transit-accessible, senior housing. Services for older residents should also be located within one quarter mile of public transit.

Transportation Coordination

“Transportation is one of the most essential services for those who are aging in our community. Unfortunately, the system is so disjointed and difficult to navigate that many older adults have no idea what services are available for safe, sustainable and reliable transportation, or how to access these services,” said Julie Maggioncalda, Director of Volunteer and Social Services at the Capitol Hill Village in a statement.

CSG calls in D.C. to create a mobility management program to coordinate among the various options from public to private to in between. The city needs both staff to focus on mobility management and a “one-call, one-click center” to help residents figure out their options for transit and mobility assistance.

A significant component to improving the existing system would be to incentivize an increase in the number and availability of accessible taxicabs in the city. Currently less than 1% of the fleet is accessible, but CSG calls on the city to increase that number to 5%.

It’s Up to City Leaders

CSG hopes to provide city leaders with a path and a clear set of goals to improve city living for its older residents.
“By ensuring mobility and access for residents of all ages, DC will encourage neighborhoods that are vibrant and also equitable,” said Cort.

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