Adapting Metro Vancouver's Transportation System to be Senior-Friendly

Date

2019-01-10

Authors

Williams, Stephanie

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Abstract

Objectives: The objective of this project is to determine ways in which Metro Vancouver’s transportation system can be adapted to be senior-friendly. Metro Vancouver is experiencing an aging population and will need a transportation system which addresses this (Canada, 2017; Turcotte, 2012). A lack of options to get around has multiple implications for seniors, including isolation, declines in physical and mental health, and a risk of driving beyond ability (Munro, 2016). To address social isolation in seniors, Seniors on the Move was developed, one of four projects within Allies in Aging, a three year federally-funded Collective Impact project in Metro Vancouver (Williams, 2016a). The author of this paper is coordinating Seniors on the Move. Methodology: This paper utilizes both qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data is used in the form of focus groups results from seniors’ experiences with transportation in Metro Vancouver, and through digital storytelling from videos produced by South Vancouver Neighbourhood House. Quantitative and qualitative data is used throughout the literature review, which pulls from the fields primarily of geography, gerontology, and population health. The literature review begins with the current ways seniors get around, and then is broken down into each mode of transportation and how each can be better suited for the needs of seniors. A systems analysis is used to look not only at the parts of the system, but how they interact and might be changed (P. Morgan, 2005). Meadows (1999) leverage points are used to analyze where the most effort should be placed on changing the system, and how hard it will be, applied to the context of the Metro Vancouver transportation system. Final recommendations are then made using this analysis, including the identification of stakeholders who may need to be involved. Themes: The results from the literature review, the findings from the Seniors Advisory Committee of Seniors on the Move, and from the digital storytelling from seniors at South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, was grouped within the 5 A’s of senior-friendly transportation, availability, acceptability, accessibility, adaptability and affordability (The Beverly Foundation Legacy, n.d.). Strategic Analysis: Using Meadows' (1999) paper on leverage points to analyze which parts of the system can be changed to have the greatest impact, changing numbers through taxes or subsidies, such as eliminating fares for seniors on public transit, can be seen to have little impact. Likewise, adding capacity to increase reliability and flexibility of HandyDART, public transit, volunteer ride programs and taxis, will be helpful, but not the most effective for the cost involved. Improving the built environment and not adding capacity for more cars can change the structure of cities, the 10th leverage point. Decreasing the delay in feedback by building now for an aging population will be effective at leverage point nine, but hard to do. Using negative feedback by increasing the cost of driving and taking space away from cars is feasible and will make other options more attractive. Creating positive feedback to increase acceptance of sustainable transportation through increasing the senior-friendliness of public transit, walking and cycling is leverage point seven, effective and feasible. The sixth leverage point is increasing information flows about transportation to the public and between policy-makers and stakeholders and is feasible. Changing the rules of the system by giving people walking, cycling and taking transit the right of way over those driving, will be necessary and effective at leverage point five. Likewise, leverage point four is changing the structure of the system to prioritize people walking, cycling and taking transit, which will be effective and somewhat feasible. The third leverage point, changing the goals of the system to focus less on getting people to work by car, will be hard to achieve, but very effective to making Metro Vancouver’s transportation system senior-friendly. The most effective leverage point for the purposes of this paper, a paradigm shift, will also be the hardest to achieve in the time frame required. Recommendations: Continue developing and expand transit training to reach more seniors Increase coordination and information flows between all transportation stakeholders and decision-makers Require taxi and ride-sourcing companies (when regulated) to have a greater percentage of accessible vehicles on the road at one time to increase their availability and implement a tax on all trips Increase availability of volunteer ride programs Implement more senior-friendly shuttles to bridge the gap between HandyDART and conventional transit Change the process of Driver Medical Exams for those over the age of 80 Adapt the built environment to be senior-friendly Implement graduated de-licensing, based on ability Increase integrated, senior-friendly land use and transportation planning Change the rules of the road to prioritize vulnerable road users.

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Keywords

seniors, transportation, elderly, aging, public transit, walking, cycling, shuttles, paratransit, HandyDART, driving, driving cessation, Vancouver, Metro Vancouver, accessible, appropriate, affordable, environmental, age-friendly, urban planning, systems change, leverage points

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