The Lifestyle Leaders Panel convened at the MIT AgeLab in the Center for Transportation and Logistics for a presentation and focus group session on transportation in older age. The Lifestyle Leaders are a group of adults ages 85 and older who reside in the Boston metropolitan area. They provide the AgeLab with data and insights about life on the frontier of longevity – the 85-and-older cohort is the fastest-growing age segment in the United States.
Access to reliable and convenient transportation is an important element of quality of life in retirement. Older adults must navigate the challenges of mobility often with reduced physical and cognitive abilities, transitioning away from driving toward alternative modes of transportation, including transit, paratransit, taxi, rideshare and van services, and getting rides from family, friends, and neighbors. The importance of transportation in older age is part of the alignment in mission and research between the MIT AgeLab and the encompassing Center for Transportation and Logistics.
Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) associates Anthony Thomas and David Hatch gave presentations to the Lifestyle Leaders and AgeLab staff on new developments in the administration and deployment of public transportation services in the Boston area. Thomas, a Community Outreach Specialist for the MBTA, spoke about upcoming changes to the MBTA’s fare collection system, a project known as AFC 2.0. He described some of the inconveniences and weaknesses in the current fare system and the coming changes that are intended to improve it. “The status quo is unsustainable,” Thomas said, pointing to accessibility issues with fare payment entry-points and the wearing out of equipment in the old system. In the new system, riders will no longer be able to pay with cash once they are on busses or the subway, but the new system will offer greater flexibility as well as enabling people to board at any door. New CharlieCards will be able to be purchased at bus stops, subway and train stations, and numerous retail locations, or riders will be able to travel without a card and use a smartphone to access the system. Riders will be able to manage their transportation accounts online and use the new CharlieCards across all transit modes – subway, bus, commuter rail, and ferry. The new fare system will begin to be implemented in 2020, with a complete rollout by 2021.
Hatch, a senior analyst for the MBTA’s Office of Transportation, talked about new initiatives under MBTA’s The RIDE service, a door-to-door, shared-ride, paratransit service primarily utilized by older adults and persons with disabilities, including members of the Lifestyle Leaders Panel. “One of the drawbacks [of The Ride] that we’re heard and we’ve seen is the inability to schedule on-demand or impromptu trips,” Hatch said. To address this issue, the MBTA has a begun a pilot program that offers subsidies for eligible RIDE users to take trips using Uber, Lyft or Curbed. The program currently only services 3,200 riders, but it will expand as it moves beyond its testing phase. Obstacles to the expansion of the subsidy program, Hatch said, include a low number of wheelchair-accessible Lyft and Uber vehicles and technological barriers around using ride-hail apps for some older adults.
The Lifestyle Leaders expressed interest in using Uber and Lyft as an additional mode of transportation. Panel members inquired about how to gain access to subsidies through The RIDE; they also asked the presenters for instructions on how to install the Lyft and Uber applications their phones.
More information about the Lifestyle Leaders Panel can be found here.