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Baby Boomers Aging In a Car-Dependent World

Lloyd Alter’s recent piece, “The Issue for Boomers Won’t Be ‘Aging in Place,’” [1] raised some important points about transportation, urban design, and getting old in America. 

The choice between no longer driving and losing one’s personal freedom, or continuing to drive and risking one’s own life and the lives of others, isn’t a new one. The vast majority of older people have been living in the suburbs for decades now, and the mobility challenges for car-dependent older adults have been with us for decades.

What is unique about today’s moment, however, is the sheer number of Baby Boomers who will be getting old at the same time, the degree to which society is now auto-dependent (after decades of suburban sprawl), and the likelihood (based on what we’ve observed about their response to aging, thus far) that Boomers will be even less likely than previous generations to relinquish their keys.

Our overdependence on cars is a well-established fact. The speed at which American society adopted the automobile is arguably the most significant and disruptive technological change in modern history. Here are some data on motor vehicle registrations from Robert Gordon’s masterful The Rise and Fall of American Growth [2]:

Motor Vehicle Registrations per 100 U.S. Households

1900               0.1

1910               2.3

1920              38.3

change_me

1930              89.8

1940              93.0

In just four decades, the United States went from a country where no one owned an automobile to one in which there was nearly one motor vehicle per household. Today, there are two motor vehicles per household.

The widespread adoption of the automobile completely remade the face of the North American continent, and drastically changed the way that our cities and towns are designed and built, as well as the way that we navigate urban places and experience public life.

Although this change to an auto-dominated society is commonly viewed as happening after World War II, the reality is that we began reorienting our cities and neighborhoods around the automobile far earlier than that. Even as early as 1930, at the dawn of the Great Depression, there was already close to one automobile for every American household. The genie was out of the bottle, and our places would never be the same again.

The rapid adoption of the automobile is a great object lesson in the unintended consequences of technological change. A machine that promised (and has delivered) one type of freedom, has also limited our freedom in other ways. 

As Aldous Huxley said [3] of science and technology, “[It] takes away with one hand even more than what it so profusely gives with the other.”

Yes, the automobile has helped us cover long distances more effectively, but it has also made us travel long distances for basic goods that we didn’t always have to. It has saddled us with significant social, economic, and environmental costs: air pollution, hundreds of billions of dollars in annual infrastructure costs, trillions of dollars in annual car-related household expenditures, tens of thousands of deaths, and hundreds of thousands of injuries each year. 

And, yes, it has put older people who cannot drive, or should not drive, in a precarious position.

When cars were first introduced, no one had to buy one if they didn’t want one. Now that we have reordered our entire society around them, outside of a very small number of cities, the use of an automobile is really no longer an option. 

Motor vehicles have changed our urban form to the point where very few people live within walking distance of their job, shopping, or other everyday activities. And for those who do, the walk to that place is likely to be unpleasant and unsafe, due to the way that cars have altered the design of our streets and neighborhoods.

We should think long and hard about the fact that, within several decades, we reordered our entire society, our built environment, and our way of life to serve this machine that we were told would serve us.

The unintended consequences of our overdependence on automobiles have fallen heavily upon the elderly. Even as their ability to drive safely declines, older people have a powerful incentive to hold on to their cars. The vast majority of older adults live in neighborhoods where giving up their car means that they will become prisoners in their own home. People keep driving, even when they shouldn’t, for understandable social and psychological reasons.  

Unfortunately, public transit isn’t any easy answer. Most older people live in suburban areas with poor (or non-existent) public transportation services, and, contrary to popular belief, older people are actually the wealthiest age group [4] in the United States. Public transit usage has a strong inverse correlation with income, so even in places where public transit exists, older people are less likely to use it. According to APTA [5], only seven percent of public transit passengers are age 65 or older, while 15 percent of all Americans are 65 or older.

Autonomous vehicles have been suggested as a viable alternative for getting older adults to where they need to go. Don’t hold your breath. People underestimate the level of technological sophistication that will be needed to operate one. They underestimate the importance of having a human being present who can assist an older person at the beginning and end of the trip. Most importantly, they underestimate the pace at which the technology will be developed and implemented. Many credible experts do not believe that that truly autonomous vehicles will be with us for decades—if ever. 

Ride-sharing services [6] like Uber and Lyft are probably one of the best alternatives for older adults who live in areas without viable public transportation, and who cannot, or do not want to, drive any longer. These services obviously do not help with the problem of car dependency, per se, but they do improve mobility for older adults and provide a reasonable option for people who should no longer be driving to give up their keys.

While older people will experience some technological challenges using ride-sharing services, these are likely to increasingly disappear as the next generation of technologically-savvy older adults replaces the existing one.

We are never going to retrofit suburbia to become significantly more urban. We lack the incentive, the will, and the money to make it happen. As Lloyd Alter writes [1]:

Baby boomers are looking around their houses and thinking “What can I do so that I can age in place?” and investing in renovations, when all the data show that one of the first things go to is the ability to drive — long before the ability to walk. Instead, they should be asking “What can I do to get out of this place? [7] How will I get to the doctor or the grocery?” Every single one of them has to look in the mirror right now and ask themselves, “What do I do when I can’t drive?”

Yes, it would make sense for elderly people living in suburban areas to move, but this is easier said than done. It is normal for a person to become attached to their house and neighborhood, particularly as they age. Decisions on where to live are emotional and are made with the heart as well as the head. There are cultural, psychological, and sociological barriers to leaving that beloved house and all of those wonderful memories behind.

In theory it would be far easier to have older people move to urban core areas where it would be easier for them to get around, rather than having them stay in the suburbs and continue to drive or expending considerable resources on cost-ineffective suburban public transit to transport them. And while ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are likely to help, human nature and our cultural ethos of personal autonomy make it likely that older people will continue to drive long past the point thatt it is safe for them to do so. 

There is another practical problem with the theory that moving from the suburbs to the urban core will help improve accessibility and mobility. Most metropolitan areas, with the exception of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Boston, have few neighborhoods where people can conveniently live without needing a car.

This theory also presupposes that the urban core has the amenities that people need. While urban core areas often have “good bones,” high population density, and a walkable street grid, the reality in many metro areas is that most of the shopping opportunities, medical offices, everyday amenities, and safe, convenient, desirable neighborhoods are in the suburbs. This is especially true in Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Cleveland, where the historic urban cores have been decimated by urban decline and disinvestment.

In practice, we are often left with the worst of both worlds: urban places with good bones which are impractical or unattractive for older people to live in or suburban places which are designed exclusively for cars, where all of the activity and amenities are. In many American cities, even people living in the heart of the urban core must drive for miles to get to a grocery store, a bank, or a doctor’s office, due to urban decline and suburban sprawl.

As critical as good urban design and walkable neighborhoods are, most older people are going to have mobility challenges, at some point, regardless of the built environment. Walking and biking become progressively more difficult as people age, too. 

Ultimately, Alter focuses so heavily on the trees of bad urban design, that he misses the forest of culture:

If urban planners and the politicians they work for had any sense, they would stop approving any more suburban sprawl  [7]and do a big intervention to allow mid-rise apartment construction everywhere in city centers where there is transit and pedestrian infrastructure that lets people get to their doctors and grocers without needing a car. Or they would adopt the principles of New Urbanism and make every new community walkable.

I grow weary of people blaming urban planners for every urban problem. The root of this particular problem is cultural, and the reality is that urban planners have very little power or influence in this country. 

Most urban planners hate our current built environment, and would love to change it. But they are trying to bail water out of the Titanic with a thimble. They are continually stifled, not by the politicians, but by the people that the politicians work for. The fact of the matter is that Americans like the urban development status quo, and efforts to change it are often met with bipartisan opposition [8]. It’s one of the few things that we still agree on.

Yes, of course, we have an urban design and land use problem that results in many transportation problems.

It is not safe for older people to continue driving as they advance in age. It is foolish to think that autonomous cars will save us (they won’t). It is not financially feasible to send shuttle buses around on three-hour round trips collecting older people in suburban neighborhoods and taking them to grocery stores, banks, and doctor’s offices.

But these are all symptoms of a larger cultural problem. The real problem is the way that we Americans (both young and old) view old age and the NIMBY culture [8] that will not allow the mid-rise, dense, mixed-use, walkable communities that Lloyd Alter dreams wants to make a reality. It is not the urban planners, or some cabal of faceless bureaucrats who are preventing this from happening. It is all of us.

We live in a society where we expect older people to muddle through their final years alone, in their own households. Multi-generational households, or situations where adult children live in extremely close proximity to their parents, and where they can help and interact with one another, are the norm in many cultures. Not here in America.

And it’s not just a matter of younger people shunting the elderly aside. Older people themselves, steeped in our powerful culture of radical autonomy, individualism, and self-sufficiency, often enter into a self-imposed exile, afraid or unwilling to ask for help. American culture has a perverse way of making even very old people feel like failures for needing assistance from others.

We live in a culture that worships youth and self-sufficiency. It is hard for older people to say “I can’t do this anymore, and I need your help.” Similarly, it is hard for younger people who could help them to say “I need to extricate myself from the never-ending rat-race of my busy and overscheduled life and help my older friends, neighbors, and family members.” Even if younger people tried to make the time to help, would employers, friends, and colleagues understand?

Our cultural challenge is a Gordian knot of dozens of interwoven, interrelated behavior patterns: transportation, urban design, the way that we view older people, the way that older people view themselves, and how we establish our personal, social, and political priorities. 

If we are to solve the problem of a lack of safe, affordable, and practical mobility options for older people, we are going to need to look in the mirror.

This isn’t ultimately a failing of the urban planners. This a failing of American culture. It’s not up to the planners to figure it out. It is up to each and every one of us.

Jason Segedy is director of planning and urban development for the city of Akron, Ohio. Segedy has worked in the urban-planning field for the past 23 years, and is an avid writer on urban development issues, blogging at Notes from the Underground [9].

28 Comments (Open | Close)

28 Comments To "Baby Boomers Aging In a Car-Dependent World"

#1 Comment By Becky On September 13, 2018 @ 11:59 pm

“Older people themselves, steeped in our powerful culture of radical autonomy, individualism, and self-sufficiency, often enter into a self-imposed exile, afraid or unwilling to ask for help. American culture has a perverse way of making even very old people feel like failures for needing assistance from others.”

In my own experience, my mother and my husband’s mother DO NOT WANT to move. They do not want to die. They do not want to initiate the process whereby they move to “a nursing home” where they face death.

They would like to die in their sleep in their own beds in their own suburban homes, with no warning. Without facing physical decline.

They would prefer to have goods and services and children come to them in their own homes; they do not want to live with and get along with their children. My observation is that in some other cultures, the elderly accept a new position of dependency in order to live with their adult children relatively peacefully.

Here in America, the elderly would much prefer to be taken care of in their own homes by a generous neighbor or a paid nurse who is not their own child.

#2 Comment By mrscracker On September 14, 2018 @ 6:57 am

My Mennonite friends have attached or semi attached housing for their elderly parents and grandparents.
I know the Amish have a similar setup.
The Hutterites care for their elderly at home too.
Neither of my grandmas knew how to drive. My maternal grandmother lived with us when I was growing up and I’ll always treasure the time we spent together. Not having those day to day moments with grandparents really is a missed opportunity and the connections and memories you make are passed down for generations.
I’d like to see more housing designed with little grandparent apartments attached. And if physicians are too busy to make housecalls these days perhaps nurses could do that and save the elderly some of those routine trips to the doctors office ?
Home deliveries seem to be a current trend .That would cut down on trips to the grocery store and other shopping too. Less need for a vehicle.

#3 Comment By Nick Stuart On September 14, 2018 @ 6:59 am

I live in an eminently walkable location in a Chicago suburb. My house is 200 yards from the town’s transportation hub which includes Metra, Pace, and Trailways. I still will have difficulty the day I can’t drive because when I’m that old and feeble I won’t be able to walk 1/2 mile to the grocery store, or 1 mile to the hospital (actual distances). Not sure what the answer is to this real problem, but walk-able neighborhoods is probably not really it.

Having said that, when I retire I’d like to get a ’70s era Lincoln or Cadillac (big, long, wide land yacht) and drive down Ogden Ave. (US 34, major surface level artery hereabouts) at 25 miles an hour in the left lane during rush hour. Hee hee hee (giggling maniacally).

#4 Comment By TomG On September 14, 2018 @ 9:34 am

Towns and cities gave (and continue to give) tax incentives to Walmart that they would never consider giving all the small business run out of business by bringing in the behemoth that depends on the tax payer to provide food stamps for their underpaid employees. This, coupled with the idiocy of building suburbs with no community infrastructure has brought us to where we are in the car dependent world. Add on to that the meds that keep us pickled and living into our 90’s and we have, layered onto the prideful individualism, car dependency for people that shouldn’t be driving. I’m only in early sixties and would love to give up my car, but as the author points out that is impossible in most of America and virtually no where affordable.

So the generation that couldn’t get their children out of the house is going to be returning the favor soon enough. Perhaps the multi-generational household is going to be the ‘aging in place’ standard for a century at least. Most are certainly not going to be able to afford the retirement industrial complex that was built when people had good pensions. I would say the Swiss don’t know how well they have it, but they do. Local shops and public transport abound.

#5 Comment By Ken T On September 14, 2018 @ 10:35 am

Amazing. The author’s own data shows that the change to a car-based culture happened between 1910 and 1930. He goes on to write:
Although this change to an auto-dominated society is commonly viewed as happening after World War II, the reality is that we began reorienting our cities and neighborhoods around the automobile far earlier than that.

And yet he still manages to turn this into a rant against Boomers. Who by definition weren’t born until after WWII; the leading edge of whom didn’t start driving until the mid to late 60’s; and who weren’t in a position to start having any influence on city planning issues until at least the 80’s or 90’s.

It’s basically an agenda looking for an excuse. Which is a shame, because there are some good valid points that can be made on this subject. (In fact, a lot of us Boomers have been making the same points for decades.) But the author pretty much discredits himself by letting his naked anti-Boomer hatred overshadow everything else.

#6 Comment By Anna On September 14, 2018 @ 12:42 pm

@Becky: I agree with your main point, that it’s often the older people themselves choosing against dependency, but I’m not sure about this: “My observation is that in some other cultures, the elderly accept a new position of dependency in order to live with their adult children relatively peacefully.”

At least in traditional cultures where property remains in the hands of the parent until their death, that gives the older person quite a bit of power and leverage over the hopeful heirs. That’s the dynamic Atul Gawande describes in his book on end-of-life issues; according to him, his uncles and aunts in India were painfully subservient to his 100+ year old grandfather until they were quite elderly themselves.

#7 Comment By Charles Marohn On September 14, 2018 @ 1:43 pm

>I grow weary of people blaming urban planners for every urban problem. The root of this particular problem is cultural, and the reality is that urban planners have very little power or influence in this country.

>Most urban planners hate our current built environment, and would love to change it. But they are trying to bail water out of the Titanic with a thimble. They are continually stifled, not by the politicians, but by the people that the politicians work for. The fact of the matter is that Americans like the urban development status quo, and efforts to change it are often met with bipartisan opposition. It’s one of the few things that we still agree on.

B.S. That’s just not right. People want dramatic change, we’ve just designed our bureaucratic systems to shield us from their direct feedback, to amplify the vested voices that resist changes. Planners and others in the system do this because it’s more comfortable for them, outcomes be damned.

Urban planners have an incredible amount of power, it’s just not the absolute type they feel most qualified to wield. To be a planner in America today, you must first admit that you don’t know the answers, that your grand vision for society is no more enlightened (or correct) than the people who screwed up our cities in the last 70 years.

In short, in you want to be a planner, you must be a servant, but that’s not the kind of people who go into planning. As Chris Arnade was quoted as saying, “the economists got us into this mess, the sociologists must get us out.” He’s right, and the modern planner is the handmaiden of the economist.

But, hey, if planners really don’t have much power, if they are just cogs in the wheel, then do away with them. Unless you embrace cognitive dissonance as an art form, you can’t simultaneously argue that planners are (a) indispensable and (b) powerless to make any substantive change in a clearly broken approach.

#8 Comment By FL Transplant On September 14, 2018 @ 2:03 pm

As someone who’s dealt with two sets of aging parents (mine and my in-laws), my experience is that by the time someone gets to the point that they’re no longer able to drive they are experiencing substantial physical and cognitive problems which makes every other form of transportation correspondingly more difficult. Sure, there will be a small number of people who experience cognitive difficulty which makes them unable to drive while they are still in physically good shape, but that’s a small number.

If you’re to the point where you can’t drive a quarter-mile walk to a grocery store and return with bags, even using a collapsible grocery cart to pull them back, will be extraordinarily difficult. Taking the subway? The number of flights of stairs and walking needed will be extremely difficult. Same with using a bus–getting up the stairs from the sidewalk into the bus will be a challenge.

If you are to that point where you can’t drive your challenges are so large that other alternatives beyond someone giving you a ride will overwhelm you. At that point if you don’t have access to reliable “taxi” service (Urber/Lyft, family, friends/neighbors) moving to an facility, either independent living or assisted living as appropriate, would be the best option for preserving your remaining independence if doing so would be affordable.

#9 Comment By Josep On September 14, 2018 @ 2:06 pm

I (a young’un at 19) live in the country and am desperate to live in a more urban environment, especially outside of the US, for a change. Where I live, all there is is just road; no sidewalk or pavement.
While I can understand why some people choose to live in the country and respect their decision, however, it makes me wonder who had this guano-for-brains idea of making most of our towns so spread-out that you need a car to get around.

#10 Comment By Jim Wagner On September 14, 2018 @ 2:52 pm

This 70 year old baby boomer couple, coming home from several years in Europe where we lived without a car, made the conscious choice to move to a small flat city (27,000) where we still need no car. We have a lovely two bedroom flat in a remodeled 1915 high school which sits on the same block as the public library, one block from the post office and Sr. Center, two blocks from the university, and three from the grocery. We can walk for all our daily needs. We also have a modest bus service which will take us to the shopping centers on either edge of town for $0.80 a ride. When we want to go out of town we rent a car which is much cheaper than owning. So far, so good. We are happy with our choice.

#11 Comment By Myron Hudson On September 14, 2018 @ 5:24 pm

I agree, planners are not the problem. The problem we have, we have to fix through other means. Ironically, cars contribute to the same problem that they solve; that is, they require large amounts of space for both driving and parking. The bigger any store, school or hospital is, the more space needed around them for parking, for approaching, for departing, for avoiding entirely. Therefore they are increasingly further apart. Which leads to the increasing distance being unwalkable and/or unsafe for pedestrians.

I like in a town that is walkable; moved here in part for that reason. But we have hills. Steep ones. And a mile or two of steep hills in bad weather, especially winter, gets tougher as I age. At some point, walking will not be an option.

Another cultural thing is the demand for bedroom communities. Lots of nice houses and gardens and parks none of those messy little shops with people coming and going. Here the planners can help stem the tide by permitting or even requiring neighborhoods to be mixed use, as our cities and towns once were. This would reduce the distance between needs and services. There is a point, though, at which market demand stops this in it’s tracks.

#12 Comment By Myron Hudson On September 14, 2018 @ 5:27 pm

I’ll add that multi-generational housing was the norm in America, too. Until around WWII. Think about how that coincides with cars and mobility.

#13 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On September 15, 2018 @ 1:17 am

Jason says:
The real problem is the way that we Americans (both young and old) view old age and the NIMBY culture that will not allow the mid-rise, dense, mixed-use, walkable communities that Lloyd Alter dreams wants to make a reality. It is not the urban planners, or some cabal of faceless bureaucrats who are preventing this from happening. It is all of us.

Yes, yes, yes! I feel like nearly every article talking about what is wrong with America today should have a disclaimer like this stuck in at the beginning and end.

We live in a society where we expect older people to muddle through their final years alone, in their own households. Multi-generational households, or situations where adult children live in extremely close proximity to their parents, and where they can help and interact with one another, are the norm in many cultures. Not here in America.

And it’s not just a matter of younger people shunting the elderly aside. Older people themselves, steeped in our powerful culture of radical autonomy, individualism, and self-sufficiency, often enter into a self-imposed exile, afraid or unwilling to ask for help. American culture has a perverse way of making even very old people feel like failures for needing assistance from others.

This. I’ve watched both my parents and my wife’s parents try to convince their parents to leave the home they can’t really navigate anymore to live with them (or assisted living if they’d prefer) and it was a ridiculous decades long struggle. I bought my over sized home (see the poor financial choices of the upper middle class article) specifically because I expect to be housing my parents and other extended family in a decade or two. It seems like after dealing with their own parents my parents will be more willing to move in with us when they need to.

Nick Stuart says:
when I retire I’d like to get a ’70s era Lincoln or Cadillac (big, long, wide land yacht) and drive down Ogden Ave. (US 34, major surface level artery hereabouts) at 25 miles an hour in the left lane during rush hour. Hee hee hee (giggling maniacally).

I lived in Chicago for 12 years, and I’m totally with you here. I’ll be kinda swerving a bit having trouble staying in my lane though.

#14 Comment By Anne (the other one) On September 15, 2018 @ 1:33 pm

My suburban town has a senior bus service. Seniors have the option of daily bus service to our senior center. Additionally, the bus takes seniors to local stores on a biweekly basis. We also have high density townhouse for seniors with a community garden, pool and walkways. I doubt this arrangement is uncommon.

Multi-generational housing is the norm for many Italian-American and other ethnic families.

My first choice for retirement would be historical Sunnyside Gardens in Queens. Townhouses arranged around a common green square with small front and back yards. Enough land for a small dog and garden. Unfortunately, these townhouses are over a million dollars.

It’s the suburbs for me, my dogs and a bird feeder in my garden.

#15 Comment By Jason Segedy On September 15, 2018 @ 4:39 pm

Ken T:

Your definition of “rant” and “hatred” must be a lot different than mine.

#16 Comment By Jason Segedy On September 15, 2018 @ 4:51 pm

Charles Marohn:

I’m not buying the “dramatic change” part. If people really wanted dramatic change, we’d already have it. That’s not reality talking, that’s your ideology talking.

I just attended a public meeting Tuesday night. There were 160 people there. They were ready to string all of us city officials up for removing two car lanes on a street that is far under-capacity, and replacing them with bike lanes. It was the ugliest public meeting that I’ve seen in 21 years of public service. The average resident likes the urban development status-quo.

Your definition of “incredible amount of power” is different than mine. Lots of planners are servants; most are followers, rather than leaders; and most of them don’t have “grand visions”. That’s just your ideology talking again.

I said that planners have “very little power”. I didn’t say that they are powerless. And I didn’t say that they are indispensable. Those are your words.

#17 Comment By Mia On September 15, 2018 @ 5:49 pm

I have ridden public transportation or walked to do shopping weekly for decades and only recently started to drive, and I can tell you the attitudes of my peers toward my lifestyle fell heavily on the side of “that’s just too much” or that all public transportation should be abolished, though I did have one or two who seemed to actually be disappointed that I had to give in and get a car. There’s an incredibly hostility toward public transportation among alot of the people I know, and indeed, it usually is part of the lower income communities rather than the wealthier ones. The idea that I should walk even a few feet from my door or walk anywhere has been met with somewhat less hostility, though still a lot of annoyance or disbelief since it just seems like such a crappy thing to have to do.

After I got my car and decided I was still walking to the grocery store every week because I liked to do so, then the real venom became apparent. I got constantly told about walking when I could drive to the store, and people took it as a major challenge. We’ve conditioned people to be kinda lazy and very conformist, so good luck even cultivating that sort of walkable lifestyle for yourself unless you have really thick skin. One thing I will recommend it for is that it does get you out and talking to neighbors. The public transportation around here can be better than a pub for hearing what’s going on in the business grapevine (usually worker complaints and stories of layoffs and screw overs by employers) and making friends. I hear not all cities with public transportation are like this, but I found the little I drove to work once for even a few days a week for about a month isolating.

#18 Comment By Marc Schuhl On September 16, 2018 @ 4:36 pm

The author assumes that prior to the age of the automobile in 1930ish, Americans got around by teleportation. Horse related death was (per capita) nearly twice as likely in the NYC of 1900 than is car related death today. Ditto for “air pollution, hundreds of billions of dollars in annual infrastructure costs, trillions of dollars in annual car-related household expenditures, … and hundreds of thousands of injuries each year ” as a complaint. All comparisons must be made against what was in place BEFORE the rise of cars, and that was not particularly pretty. Brooklyn to this day has “Dead Horse Bay” where the carcasses were piled up back in those good old days. Some problems (excessive CO2 emissions) are indeed new, but then again massive piles of excrement in the streets were probably not all that pleasant either. People adopted cars because, for most people and in most places, they made life better. Yes, my American ancestors in late 1800’s Philadelphia did not dedicate as much time to commuting as I do. They lived in densely populated low quality urban rental housing located conveniently close to the sweatshops in which they were employed. No thanks. I suspect that the best answer here is the one quickly glossed over by the author – the rise of Uber and Lyft and then eventually self driving Uber/Lyft transportation-as-service. My life is better here in car dependent Los Angeles, but I would be THRILLED not to pay for a $30,000 car that sits idle for 150 of the 168 hours in the week. But that is still a vision of a car dependent city, right?

#19 Comment By Walter On September 17, 2018 @ 9:23 am

Rapid Climate change and consequence of collapse of the technical world civilisations is now understood to be well underway… This immutable fact creates the future, shapes the future, within which the author’s imaginary future “car-dependent world” cannot exist. His article is moot. Perhaps logical within it’s compass, but entirely imaginary, even delusional, in reality.

Looming in front of the environmental chaos is the ongoing hegemonic world war for the control of the Eurasians…which war may well ruin technical civilisations even before Rapid Climate Chaos…

#20 Comment By bkh On September 17, 2018 @ 9:34 am

Just recently, the suburb I live in started building more sidewalks. I have lived here for over 10 years and always wondered why more sidewalks were not built. The sidewalks are along some back roads and some major arteries. It is great this finally happened. The city also has a decent bus system which I have used for most of the time to go downtown to work. What has been sad is I hear co-workers all the time say they would never ride the bus. They would rather pay stupid prices to park a car.

#21 Comment By Fayez Abedaziz On September 17, 2018 @ 10:41 am

I noticed problems with the ability for people to move around when I was 15, walking on a Boulevard with newer buildings in a growing area in Denver in the mid-60’s:
as I walked along parking lots and along the curb, I thought, “where’s the sidewalk?”
There were only so many yard stretches of sidewalk then, no sidewalk, you had to walk on parking lots that went right to the curb/street. Also, no matter where one lives anymore, you gotta go for miles to get to a supermarket and malls.
Downtown/urban areas are just a lot of shops to eat or drink and thousands of people walking around. The newer apartment buildings are geared to people in their 20’s-40’s and most of these people have little sense of civility. When they hit the 60’s plus year old years, they’re gonna find themselves still in an apartment and still have to drive to get to major stores and doctors offices and more.

#22 Comment By mrscracker On September 17, 2018 @ 1:05 pm

Anne (the other one) says:

“My suburban town has a senior bus service. Seniors have the option of daily bus service to our senior center. Additionally, the bus takes seniors to local stores on a biweekly basis.”
****************
I live out in the country but our parish supports a bus service & senior center like that, too. They pick up older rural folk & carry them to town.
As someone else pointed out, by the time you can’t operate a vehicle you’re probably not in any great shape to walk to errands either.
My dog tripped me a couple of years ago & I couldn’t walk for weeks but I could drive OK. Even amputees or folks with other disabilities can drive vehicles with moderations.

#23 Comment By Patricus On September 17, 2018 @ 11:47 pm

The auto has proved to be nearly indispensible. Losing the ability to drove is heartbreaking for the elderly. It means the end of freedom. A trip to the grocery store is arduous if one must schedule around busses then wait long periods for the next returning bus. There is a limit to how much can be carried by hand so every week, at least, half a day is squandered on the public transportation. If some other stops are necessary errands can become a full day’s work.

I had older relatives who lived in cities, in walk-up flats. Their lives were limited. Their groceries cost 25% more than the larger suburban stores. Variety was lacking. The pre car days were not paradise.

#24 Comment By George Hoffman On September 18, 2018 @ 2:18 pm

Jason, I also live in Akron, Ohio, and as a retiree I have lived in AMHA public housing for almost five years. But I haven’t had a car since around 2001. I walk and bike to the grocery store, barbershop, etc. I take a bus only in the worst winter weather even though I’m a moderately disabled Vietnam veteran (my heart disease was due in part to exposure to Agent Orange during my tour of duty in Vietnam). But I love being independent and will remain so as long as I can. I agree with the poet Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave as the close of day, Rage, rage against the dying of the night.” I also agree with the actress Bette Davis: “Growing old isn’t for sissies. “ ( I tend to digress as usual in my comments.) But we created this issue of isolation for older Americans back in 1956. That was when President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the signature bill of his administration, the Federal Aid Highway Act. It remains the largest public works project in our history which cost us around $480 billion when adjusted for inflation. It created the supremacy of the automobile, ignored public transportation and created this vast suburban sprawl that tends to isolate many older Americans who have passed the age of being safe car drivers. I had nothing to do with the passage of this bill. I was 10 years old at the time. More generally, I’m a bit tired of blaming many of the present societal ills facing our country on the aging boomers in the various articles i’ve recently read in publications and websites. Younger people tend to think boomers have gotten the best that the federal government provides for aging boomers and they will have to fight for the scraps as the safety social network unravels in the era of neoliberal austerity. Well, I was in the last generation subject to the draft, and I certainly didn’t ask to be exposed to Agent Orange during my tour of duty. And the Iraq War was clearly as illegal as the Vietnam War was. What brothers me is this continuing Balkanization of our culture of which you allude to in your article. There are no safe spaces in life for citizens to avoid micro-aggressions and be warned beforehand they occur with trigger alerts. Identity politics and personal intersectionality will not save us when that next economic meltdown hammers us. But, of course, my low bar for what can happen to you is Vietnam. I actually feel sorry for these younger Americans who want to blame everything under the sun on boomers given the political unrest and ensuing chaos here in America and through the world as we head into what seems very stormy weather for all of us. But as I said I tend to digress in my comments.

#25 Comment By Jason Segedy On September 18, 2018 @ 5:07 pm

George:

Thank you for sharing these wonderful thoughts and for sharing your story and experiences. It’s great to hear from a fellow Akronite.

I agree – we all need to pull together and help support one another.

My Dad was a chemical weapons officer in the U.S. Army from 1967-1969. The men of your generation made great personal sacrifices for this country. Thank you.

#26 Comment By JS On September 19, 2018 @ 6:55 pm

It troubles me that coastal cities have hurricane evacuation plans that amount to little more than “everyone get in your cars and drive away as fast as possible”. Few coastal cities, despite the near inevitability of a hurricane coming at some point within any ten year period, make provisions for those who cannot drive.

Many of those people are elderly or otherwise disabled.

While Katrina was heavily politicized by the media to drive a racial agenda, after the bodies were counted, it turned out that most Katrina victims were over 60. But the media chose not to address this, and public policy changed little in any hurricane prone area to take this into account.

I cannot drive but am lucky to have a family member in the house who can. Taking the bus is onerous and hurts my joints badly.

#27 Comment By Brian M On September 19, 2018 @ 9:18 pm

No. They sacrificed themselves for sure during that war, but it had nothing to do with “for this country”. It was all about profit and enabling the sociopathic and psychopathic ruling class, the owners (h/t George Carlin) to play their power games.

Just like the current network of wars.

#28 Comment By John Hawkins On September 20, 2018 @ 8:36 pm

“by the time someone gets to the point that they’re no longer able to drive they are experiencing substantial physical and cognitive problems which makes every other form of transportation correspondingly more difficult.”

FL Transplant, I completely agree. My mother is 90, and still able to drive (though we don’t know for how much longer – already she will not drive at night). But she is several years past being able to walk any great distance, especially on uneven ground or hills. Hip and back problems limit her stamina, and balance is an issue. The neighborhood is quite walkable, and there is a nice grocery store 4 relatively flat blocks away, but that is beyond her stamina to walk.

When she can’t drive, she will need someone to take her shopping (or do it for her) even though she already lives in a neighborhood that walkscore.com rates “90 – Walker’s Paradise.”