Best planning and implementation toolbox


Purpose of Tool:

Special transit services for seniors are available in Estes Park, Colorado.

Image Source: [here]
Special services for senior citizens can include transportation programs that provide subsidized taxi trips, ridesharing, van pools or bus service. Sometimes these services are grouped under the heading “paratransit,” which is defined as a transportation service that supplements larger public transit systems through individualized rides without fixed routes or timetables (offering pick up and drop off on request). Paratransit typically provides transportation services to both senior citizens and individuals with disabilities.

Benefits of Using Tool:
Special transit service for seniors encourages programs that promote the use of public transit and ridesharing, which have the following benefits for a community or region at large:
  • Reduces traffic congestion and reduces pollutants such as CO2 and other green house gas (GHG) emissions as fewer single-occupancy vehicles take to the road,
  • Presents a flexible and cost-effective transit option, particularly in areas that are not well-served by transit, including rural areas,
  • Provides an important mobility option for non-drivers, especially in low-density or rural areas where fixed route transit service is not supportable, and
  • Improves public safety with regard to specific functions related to driving skills. As drivers age their vision, hearing, sensation and cognitive and motor abilities may be impaired. For example, reaction time decreases by almost 40 percent on the average from age 35 to age 65, and a driver at age 40 may need 20 times more light to see at night than a driver at age 20.1

    Steps Involved to Use Tool:
    Senior transit programs can be implemented by an individual institution as part of a transit accessibility program, by a local or county government, or by a transportation agency.
  • Such a program should outline what incentives for seniors it will offer, such as flexible schedules and/or reduced fares for eligible participants.
  • Targeted marketing should inform potential users about the special senior services and associated benefits.

    Special Requirements to Use Tool:
    A variety of improvements and incentives can increase senior transit usage. This can include installing priority waiting areas that are comfortable and well-lit, route maps and schedules that are printed in an accessible and easy-to-read format, and easy boarding facilities or accommodations for elderly riders such as a “kneeling” or “low-floor” bus. Other considerations include reduced or waived fares, and the method which seniors use to request paratransit services. Such ride request services must be made available in a format (online, telephone) that is comfortable and easy to use for the elderly.

    Specials Resources Needed to Use Tool:
    Studies indicate that older persons currently use public transit for about three percent of their trips and that less than 12 percent of all seniors have used public transit in the last 12 months. 2 Research also suggests that non-driving seniors are adjusting from former independence and therefore will demand a very high level of public transit services. Recent studies have observed that while the 65 and over population grew by 20 percent in suburbs in the 1990s, it grew by only 2.4 percent in cities. 3 In order to attract seniors to public transportation, adopting a more customer-oriented approach may be required. Strategies to address this include addressing user preferences and expectations (such as reliability and flexibility) and meeting user needs and limitations (such as the inability of seniors to wait outside in poor weather conditions).

    Communities / Agencies that Have Used Tool:
    Montgomery County, Maryland has had success with a comprehensive aratransit program that provides transportation services to seniors. Both the ‘Ride On’ and the ‘Call N Ride’ programs are designed to increase accessibility to transit for Montgomery County’s seniors. The Ride On program waives all bus fares on Metro buses to persons 65 and older. The Call N Ride program provides subsidized taxi trips for both seniors and low-income persons with disabilities. To be eligible for the Call N Ride program, one must be at least 67 years of age of low income, and/or disabled. Clients may purchase up to two $50 monthly coupon books (each coupon in the book is valued at $1) at discounts according to income. The coupons must be used on taxicabs from companies under contract with the County and can be combined with cash to pay for a trip. 4

    Montgomery County Department of Transportation
    101 Monroe St, 10th Floor
    Rockville, MD 20850
    (240) 777-7433

    Metrics to Use to Monitor Tool Effectiveness:
    Tracking the ridership rate of seniors on public transit is a helpful way of determining the effectiveness of special transit services for seniors. In Great Falls, Montana seniors (aged 65+) account for 15 percent of ridership on the fixed route transit system; this number is anticipated to increase sharply over the next decade as Montana’s elderly population grows by a projected 23 percent. 5 With respect to paratransit services the Sacramento, California provider Paratransit Inc. reports that in 2002 they provided an average of 57,000 rides per month to Sacramento’s elderly and disabled residents. By 2030, they expect the demand to rise to over 140,000 per month, or over 5,000 trips per day. 6

    List of Resources to Obtain Additional Info:
    See the following sources for more information:
  • Paratransit Inc, Spending Tomorrow’s Dollars on Yesterday’s Problems, Online:
  • Transit Cooperative Research Program, TCRP Report 82, Improving Public Transit Options for Older Persons Vol. I and Vol. II, 2002. PDF: Online:


    1 Paratransit Inc, Spending Tomorrow’s Dollars on Yesterday’s Problems, page 4.
    2 TCRP, Improving Public Transit for Seniors Vol. 1, page ES-1.
    3 Paratransit Inc, Spending Tomorrow’s Dollars on Yesterday’s Problems, page 12.
    4 Program descriptions are online:
    5 TCRP, Improving Public Transit for Seniors Vol.I, 2002, page 47.
    6 Paratransit Inc, Spending Tomorrow’s Dollars on Yesterday’s Problems, page 19.