Welcome to our second issue on Age-friendly cities. Last time we discussed Outdoor Spaces and Buildings and now we are digging into Transportation. Even if you have lots of inviting parks near you, it doesn’t matter if you can’t get there on time. As we age, accomplishing daily tasks like driving and parking may become more difficult and dangerous. Public transportation allows us to get from Point A to Point B without the trouble of finding a parking spot or worrying about the safety of our vehicle while we go about our business. These services not only provide secure transportation but represent city policy as a whole, reflecting the local values.
We begin our transportation journey in Japan, which may have one of the best public transportation services in the world. As a country that constantly innovates and implements technology, the subway system is a sight to behold. Signs are in both Japanese and English and the trains and stations are very clean. The trains run on time and are compatible with the Public Transport view in Google Maps.
Lines form based on easily readable floor markers, and priority seating is reserved for the elderly and infirmed. Priority seating is one of the guidelines set out in the World Health Organization’s report on Age-Friendly Cities. There are even “women only” cars, something that New York subways may want to implement in the future.
(Image Courtesy of Insider)
With access to airports, parks, shopping destinations and museums, the rail system in Japan is a prime example of what a nation can do to help people of all ages get from “Point A” to “Point B”.
Not to be outdone, Seattle currently ranks #1 in cities in the US for public transportation according to WalletHub. A low commuting time, access to major city hubs, and overall safety helped Seattle win the top spot. Wheelchair access to busses and readable signage also allow commuters to get to where they need to be in relative comfort.
(Image Courtesy of Smart Growth America)
In 2016 Seattle was named an AARP “Age-Friendly” Community. The city invests over $30 million annually to better serve its aging population including renovating senior centers and implementing better bike lanes to promote outdoor activity. Specific areas targeted include increased pedestrian lighting, larger street-crossing signs, and residential greenways.
(Image Courtesy of chunnel.org.uk)
Our next example caused quite a stir in 1994 when it was unveiled. The $7.2 billion Chunnel is a tunnel passing underneath the English Channel connecting France to England. Travelling at a max speed of 99 miles per hour the total time per trip is a mere 20 minutes. This is a great advantage over flying from England to France as there is no need to bother with airline security or cramped seating. Passengers are free to move about during the trip and generally report more favorable experiences compared to flying.
While Tri-County residents may not have access to high-speed rails or underground tunnels, we do have a reliable transit system. Back in Bend, the city has taken steps to make sure the coronavirus does not keep residents from leaving the house. Until Labor Day, Route 31 will be operating for free between La Pine and Sunriver. This route serves several communities and connects residents to work, hospitals, pharmacies, and grocery stores. The Cascades East Transit continues to clean and sanitize each transportation vehicle and facilities on a daily basis. Rails, seats, handrails, and other high-touch areas are cleaned using disinfectant sprays.
Prineville shares the same transit system as Bend with the added benefit of having a dial-a-ride option as well. Residents in rural areas can call Monday through Friday to arrange for transportation. Residents also have access to handicap-friendly options upon request.
The coronavirus has created a new awareness for health and wellness, and those over 55 should take multiple precautions when taking public transport. Carrying and using hand sanitizer, wearing a facemask in public, and choosing less populated busses or trains will all help. Running errands at off-peak times will allow residents to minimize contact with other people.
Transportation has become one of the most important aspects of age-friendly cities. Without reliable public transit, those without personal vehicles are at a great disadvantage when trying to buy groceries or visit loved ones. Next time we will delve into age-friendly housing options and explore some of the best examples of accessible design.