Transportation agency to study elderly's use of mass transit - FOX 35 News Orlando

Transportation agency to study elderly's use of mass transit

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Area transportation planning agency Metroplan will spend $20,000 of the public's tax money on a survey that will study, among other things, why the elderly are the least likely to want to use public transportation.

Metroplan spokeswoman Cynthia Lambert says the additional study is needed, because when they did the original survey, it posed more questions to them when they asked for public opinion about mass transit.

"'Would you be willing to ride if it went more places? If it ran more frequently for convenience purposes?' And we found in those questions that the elderly population were the least likely to say yes to those, and we wanted to know why that is?"

They will spend $20,000 with a professor at the University of Central Florida to try and learn the answer. Metroplan Chairwoman Daisy Lynum says if mass transit will work in Central Florida, they will need elderly riders.

"The Lynx buses, or the commuter trains, or the high speed rail... light rail, those are the future for this community," says Lynum.  "So we've got to start educating those people who are aging in place that this is a great benefit for them."

In an effort to find some of these answers for Metroplan without charge, FOX 35 went to a retirement home and a barbershop, then started asking elderly people if they were reticent to use mass transit. The answer was "yes" in each case.

"If I were using bus service, I would have to change, so I use a taxi service," says Helen Yarborough.

"Once you get on the transit, and it takes you where you've got to get off, then your stuck," says Judith Curtis.  "You've got to rent a cab or rent a car to about where you want to get, and if it rains, I'm so sweet I might melt."

Ruth Wells adds, "I have my car, and I'm thankful I can still drive at this point, but I can get around a little bit easier having my own car."

The other big question Metroplan hopes to answer with this survey using focus groups of elderly people revolves around how to pay for mass transit.

In the original survey, the respondents preferred that everyone pay in equal amounts for taxes related to transportation. When they were asked to rank the types of taxes or fees to pay for transit, the most highly ranked were those that charged by number of miles driven.  The agency wants to know why those two findings contradict each other.

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