June 20, 2013
Chairman Nohe and members of the NVTA,
My name is Jana Lynott. As a former staff member of NVTC and project manager of the TransAction 2020 Plan, it is a sincere pleasure to be back among friends.
Tonight I’m speaking on behalf of more than 1 million AARP Virginia members. AARP’s target membership is generally people aged 50+, thus we represent the needs of commuters still in the workforce, recent retirees with health and leisure time, and those who now face myriad mobility challenges that come with advanced age.
AARP greatly appreciates the hard work and leadership by members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority over many years to make the case for additional transportation funding in our Commonwealth. We applaud passage of the first significant long-term transportation funding increase in 27 years.
As this body has so coherently articulated, Northern Virginia and other parts of our state have been choked by traffic congestion for decades. We agree with the NVTA, the Governor and the General Assembly that balanced investments in road, transit and supporting multimodal efforts are essential to relieve one of the most traffic-choked regions in the United States. As such, AARP supports the proposed 2014 project list put forward by NVTA member jurisdictions, and backed up by the TransAction 2040 Plan.
Moving forward in 2014 and beyond, AARP would like to work with the NVTA to help build public understanding and support for transportation investments that go beyond congestion relief to include relief for the many older adults and persons with disabilities who are currently trapped in their homes because of inadequate transportation. We also hope to provide some relief to family caregivers who have to take time off work, reduce their working hours or give up employment entirely because their loved ones depend solely on them for their transportation.
Between now and 2040, Northern Virginia’s population age 65+ will nearly double, from 205,000 to nearly 400,000 people. Roughly one in every five of these older adults will not drive. We need to plan now to effectively meet the needs of our changing population.
This past winter, the Fairfax County Mobility and Transportation Committee surveyed more than 1,000 older adults and persons with disabilities residing in Fairfax County, the city of Fairfax and Falls Church. Respondents told us that:
- Inaccessible bus stops, unsafe pedestrian crossings and limited service prevent them from using public transit, commenting that most current service is designed for commuters and is of little use to them.
- By far the most common request was more bus service during off-peak times and increased connections to shopping centers, senior centers, recreation centers and libraries, along with transit centers.
- Without transit, many respondents are stranded. 27% said they could not reach a destination in the past month because they didn't have a ride, while those with the lowest annual household incomes were most likely to not leave their homes in a typical week.
AARP believes these survey results reflect the needs of older adults and persons with disabilities across Northern Virginia. We also believe we need a regional solution to these challenges. As such, we offer the following recommendations for future planning and investment.
Continue to invest in fixed-route public transportation service and accessible infrastructure. Public transit service in Northern Virginia is a lifeline for many older adults and persons with disabilities. We are lucky to live in a region with such a rich network of transit service and the system is already well-along to becoming universally accessible. Nonetheless, we can suggest a few improvements:
- Off-Peak Service: Increase bus service during off-peak times to connect neighborhoods with shopping centers, senior centers, recreation centers, and libraries, as well as transfer points at main-line transit stops.
- Fares: Expand locations where people can buy Senior SmarTrip cards and Metro Disability ID cards. Display information on Metrorail station parking policies and fees more prominently to prevent confusion by occasional riders.
- Stop Announcements: Install automated bus stop annunciators and visual LED displays on all buses so that riders with sensory disabilities can independently use the buses. Upgrade communications equipment as necessary and train Metrorail operators to announce stations clearly at every stop.
- Accessibility: Conduct public service awareness campaigns about the importance of priority seating areas for older adults and people with disabilities on buses and Metrorail. Improve way-finding signage, as well as lighting at Metrorail stations. Ensure that escalator and elevator outages are fixed expeditiously and publicize ELES alerts notifying riders of elevator and escalator outages so they can make alternate travel plans. Provide elevator redundancy at every new Metrorail station.
- Empowerment: Provide contact information at transit stops to enable riders to report accessibility barriers and deficiencies in service.
Complete and maintain the pedestrian network. Focused attention should be placed on the ¼ to ½ mile radius surrounding public transit stations and stops, shopping centers, senior centers, recreation centers, and libraries—all key destinations of interest to older adults in our community.
Establish a Northern Virginia-wide mobility management center, staffed by a regional mobility manager.
- At the individual level, mobility management connects customers to the transportation services that best meet their individual needs. Services would be accessed through a one-call/one-click center.
- ITS technology would support the services of this center, allowing all interested human services/specialized transportation providers, including paratransit operators and volunteer driver programs to coordinate their ride scheduling, dispatch and billing services.
- The mobility management center could also help regional policy makers identify inefficiencies in the existing system and opportunities for more seamless and efficient regional human services transportation.
- The mobility management center could also offer travel training to give capable individuals the confidence in using NOVA’s excellent, lower cost fixed-route public transportation services.
- Several of NVTA’s member jurisdictions have implemented one or more of these concepts at the local level. This concept expands best practices from across Northern Virginia and the country to our region.
Expand the regional fleet of accessible taxi cabs through requirements or incentives in local taxicab ordinances.
Continue to invest in older driver safety measures to extend safe driving years. Measures include those eventually required by the 2010 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), such as larger fonts on signs and greater retroreflectivity on signs and pavement paint.
In addition to my written testimony, I have provided each of you with a copy of my recent publication, Weaving It Together: A Tapestry of Transportation Funding for Older Adults. This document highlights case studies of model senior transportation programs from around the country and the myriad ways that these services are regionally coordinated and funded.
Thank you for the opportunity to share AARP’s ideas for a more mobile Northern Virginia.
Senior Strategic Policy Advisor
AARP Public Policy Institute
Cc: William Kallio, State Director
David DeBiasi, Associate State Director—Advocacy
Weaving It Together: A Tapestry of Transportation Funding for Older Adults, AARP Public Policy Institute, 2013.