As Baby Boomers reach retirement age, they will usher in a massive explosion of the senior population across America. Right now, around 12 percent of Los Angeles County is over the age of 65. By 2030, that number will jump to 20 percent. That's double the amount of senior citizens LA had in 2000. With this unprecedented demographic shift, comes a changing set of societal accommodations to better serve a graying population. Businesses, industry, and even public transportation will have to grapple with the aging of the Boomers. KPCC reports that Metro is already thinking ahead, taking steps to prepare itself for the increase in aging riders.
As an outreach to seniors, Metro has created "On the Move", a program that has Metro-savvy seniors introducing their peers to the world of public transportation. Through guided tours and sightseeing adventures, On the Move hopes to acclimate seniors to the experience of riding Metro trains and buses. The program even recruited an oldster duo who published a book called Loving L.A. the Low Carbon Way that gives tips on locations of clean restrooms and where riders can grab a quick lunch—details that can go a long way toward making travel by public transit more attractive.
Metro has had senior perks like fare discounts and priority seating for some time now, but the transit agency also has more expansive plans for the seniors of the future. The agency is in the process of rolling out new amenities to make public transportation easier for seniors. They've boosted the number of elevators in stations and increased space in Metro vehicles for those riders in wheelchairs and walkers. Priority seating for seniors and disabled has been color-coded to be more easily identified. Tactile paths have been put on subway platforms to guide riders with visual impairments. Metro has even started making the font sizes bigger on signage.
There are obstacles, though. To fully integrate Metro transportation into senior's lives requires a careful consideration of the realities of aging. The long walk when transferring between trains, crowded buses, and lack of restroom access can make public transportation a painful experience. Lisa Schweitzer, a professor of urban planning at USC, told KPCC that people "overestimate how comfortable it is for older people," and that she doesn't want to "romanticize" public transportation for seniors.
Additionally, there is some doubt whether an aging population will remain living in the city. As rents skyrocket for everyone, those on fixed incomes may find it hard to remain in Los Angeles. (Previous studies have suggested that LA as a whole is not a fantastic place to get old.) The Brookings Institute recently found that most Baby Boomers live in suburban LA County, and it is unlikely they will leave for the city as they get older. As a result, urban planners like Schweitzer see more of a future in ridesharing apps and self-driving vehicles for suburban seniors than public transportation.