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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Suburban elderly transportation : case study of Richmond, B.C. Straka, Alena Vera


This thesis was undertaken to examine the travel characteristics and transportation difficulties of independent-living elderly residing in suburban areas. The underlying intent of the research was to test the following hypothesis: although many independent-living elderly may own cars, they would prefer to use public transit, particularly demand-responsive public transit, provided it satisfied their travel requirements and public transport expectations. An examination of existing literature on the travel habits, mobility constraints, and public transportation expectations of the elderly revealed the following: 1. The number of older people in Canada is increasing dramatically, particularly in suburban areas. 2. Adequate transportation is essential to the physical, social, and psychological well-being of the elderly. 3. Elderly individuals residing in the suburbs are faced with certain inevitable transportation difficulties as a result of their residential location. 4. Demand-responsive transportation systems appear to most effectively increase the mobility of those seniors inadequately served by public transit and with little or no access to a private vehicle. 5. The co-existence of a demand-responsive transport system and a public transit system within a suburban area would satisfy both the transportation needs of the elderly and those of their younger counterparts. The primary research task involved an exploratory survey of eighty-five Richmond independent-living elderly residents. Their travel habits, auto availability, reliance upon existing modes of public transportation, and difficulties encountered with the existing public transit system were ascertained through a self-administered questionnaire. Survey findings revealed most of the elderly to be fairly active and social. The majority carried out their daily errands sometime between 9 am and 4 pm, mainly within Richmond. Many relied upon their own vehicle for transportation and reported experiencing either no difficulty or only occasional difficulty in getting about. Car ownership rates were lower for the late-elderly respondents than the early-elderly, and the former age group also reported greater mobility difficulties. Overall, the sample was comprised of fairly agile and mobile seniors, most of whom were still quite capable of using the same public transportation systems as the rest of the suburban population. Planners responsible for the provision of transportation for suburban elderly residents should be aware of the following major conclusions drawn from this thesis: 1. Most of the elderly car-owners surveyed preferred their own car over the use of public transit, regardless of whether or not existing public transportation systems were to be modified to better satisfy their needs. 2. The dramatic growth rate of individuals 75 years and over will inevitably lead to an overall increase in demand for public transportation, with a particularly large increase in demand for the existing HandyDART custom transit service. 3. Dependence upon public transportation by increasing numbers of suburban elderly females is expected to become much greater in the future. 4. The provision of an exclusive demand-responsive transit service for the elderly in Richmond is evidently not necessary. 5. Although the existence of public transportation along major routes within Richmond heading to downtown Vancouver appears to be plentiful, transit service on some of the routes running east to west throughout the municipality is apparently inadequate.

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