The Yin and the Yang of Senior Transit in Atlanta

First there was Yin in the AJC:

Metro Atlanta seniors beware:  By 2015, 90 percent of area residents 65 and older are expected to live in neighborhoods with poor or nonexistent access to mass transit.  That’s the worst showing among metropolitan areas with more than 3 million people, according to a new study released Tuesday, “Aging in Place: Stuck Without Options.”

The study was conducted by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and released by Transportation for America, groups that advocate for sustainable development.


According to the American Association of Retired Persons, when older people lose transportation options they make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor and far fewer trips to family, friends and other places.

The groups called for a federal investment in mass transit expansion.

You can read the whole Yin here.

Then there was Yang from the CATO Institute:

Most seniors don’t ride transit. Census data show that more than 12.5 percent of all Americans are over 65, yet data from the American Public Transportation Association show that only 6.7 percent of transit trips are taken by senior citizens. The average American rides transit less than 34 times a year; the average senior citizen less than 18 times a year.


Transportation for America wants transit agencies to extend frequent bus or rail service to every remote suburb where there might be a few people over 65 — not because those people want to ride transit, but to simply give them “options.” In order to pay for service extensions to suburbs, many transit agencies have reduced transit service in the central cities where most transit riders are actually located. As a result, since 1985, per-capita transit ridership has plummeted in such major urban areas as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta.

Congress expects to pass legislation this year that will decide how to spend $40 billion in annual federal gas tax revenues over the next six years. In recent years, 20 percent of those gas taxes have been spent on transit. Transportation for America’s goal is to further increase that share. But after decades of huge transit subsidies, per-capita transit ridership today is no greater than it was in 1970 — mainly because the subsidies have focused on extending transit service to those who don’t need it rather than providing better service to those who do.

Americans will be better off by privatizing transit. Private operators will provide better service to those willing to live in denser, transit-friendly neighborhoods without wasting a lot of money trying to attract a few suburbanites out of their cars.

You can read the whole Yang here.

I remember attending a transportation charade charrette once where I had a discussion about senior transportation with Alpharetta’s Director of Engineering and Public Works, Pete Sewczwicz. Pete suggested that it would good if the city of Alpharetta could use excess capacity in shopping center parking lots as transit stops for seniors that weren’t able to drive to the doctor’s office. I then pointed out to Pete that if seniors couldn’t drive to the doctor’s office they couldn’t drive to the shopping center either and it was doubtful they would be walking the several miles from their homes to catch a bus.

As the Yang points out, most seniors have no intention of giving up their cars and the only transit helpful to those unable to drive is the kind that picks them up at their house. MARTA already spends millions providing door-to-door transportation for some elderly residents but Georgia’s taxpayers simply can’t be expected to provide door-to-door transportation for every senior citizen in the metro Atlanta area. It might be nice if every senior citizen could get free transportation but unfortunately the service wouldn’t be free, it would be paid for by taxpayers that are already facing 10% unemployment in the worst economic environment of our lifetimes.

Yin may seem like a sympathetic cause but government’s attempt to provide for every possible need of its citizens is simply not sustainable nor desirable. Put me down for Yang on this one.

3 thoughts on “The Yin and the Yang of Senior Transit in Atlanta

  1. Novel idea: Why not let family members take care of their own…. you know, like Scripture commands. Or letting neighbors be neighbors bearing one another’s burdens. This is what our congregation does, not just within our church but to those we know of within our individual spheres.

    This is nothing more than statists using the excuse of seniors to realize their ideal of more mass transit. Statists will use any group of people they can to draw a sympathetic, emotional response. It used to be “the children.” Now “the seniors” are becoming the new children. They have to use emotional arguments because they know their ideas don’t pass logical muster (as Cato author proves).

  2. There are some key words in Yin of the blog: 1)AARP….this organization is no longer an advocate for seniors, but rather only cares about making millions of $$$ selling insurance. Most seniors don’t like this organization. 2) Sustainable Development – This is a key phrase used by the U.N. with regard to Agenda 21, which they are attempting to get the U.S. to buy into city by city, state by state. We are the United States of America, and will never live under the rule of the U.N. 3) Mass Transit is one of Obama’s pet lies that is supposed to create jobs. A study done of all large cities with mass transit systems shows that not one of these cities has a positive revenue flow from mass transit.

    The American people are fed up with all of these slick words / phrases that have been coined to suck us into a dark hole. We aren’t buying any of it. Check out this site to see what people are finally opening their eyes to:

  3. A transportation policy loop that I follow shows similar articles pouring in from across the nation. Journolist must have called in orders to all the local rags with the same talking points.

    Here is an article from the San Francisco area. The interesting thing about this article is their starting point in contrast to Atlanta. Note that Atlanta had “the worst showing among metropolitan areas with more than 3 million people.” A quote from the San Fran article says:

    The Bay Area ranked highest in the nation for public transit, but
    even this region is not immune from mobility problems for seniors,
    according to the report titled “Aging in Place, Stuck Without Options.”

    And yet the Rx is exactly the same: MORE TAX DOLLARS

    Ever notice how government never solves problems no matter how much money they take?

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