In 2011, our nation's 78 million baby boomers began turning 65. That is an unprecedented demographic shift, and it means that the kinds of infrastructure and services needed in communities across the nation will change. And, as I noted earlier this week at The Atlantic's Generations Forum, that is particularly true for transportation.
In preparing for the Generations Forum, I thought about DOT's strategic goals: safety, sustainability, economic competitiveness, and a state of good repair for our transportation infrastructure. And it occurred to me that to talk about livability, another one of our strategic goals, is really to talk about all of those goals.
That's why at DOT, we work hard to make sure that as our population ages, we’re providing the livability people need and want.
This is particularly important now as people choose to drive less. In 2011, Americans took nearly 10 percent more trips via public transportation than we did in 2005. So, when we support transit-oriented development, with housing and commercial enterprises accessible to good transit options, we make life easier for those who can't or don't want to drive.
We also generate terrific opportunities for businesses whose customers can find them and whose employees can get to work without having to drive. Medical offices are easier to get to, along with grocery stores, health clubs, and whatever other services an aging population might seek.
Americans are also commuting by bike and on foot more frequently, so we've worked hard to make sure people have the sidewalks and bike lanes that make our neighborhoods real communities. And we're looking at adjustments to pedestrian signal timing, to give people more time to cross intersections safely.
By updating our transportation network--making sure our roads, rails, and runways are in a state of good repair--we make getting around safer for all Americans.
For example, road work not only replaces aging pavement with a safer, smoother ride; new technologies like Safety Edge can further improve safety by alerting drivers if their vehicles drift. And, as communities replace worn out signs and traffic signals, you’ll see larger signs with taller letters, signs placed in a way to give motorists more time to react, and traffic signals with bigger lenses for greater visibility.
We’ve also helped fund an initiative through the National Center on Senior Transportation to increase options for older adults and make it easier for them to live more independently within their communities. This is good news for seniors and their families.
Most aging adults want to remain in their communities. And we need to help them stay connected as they age.
That’s exactly what DOT's livability investments do.