Estimating the Impacts of the Aging Population on Transit Ridership


ICF Consulting

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

ridership - old people, mode - paratransit, ridership - forecasting, place - north america


Aging population, Automobile ownership, Demographics, Diseases and medical conditions, Future, Impacts, Income, Mobility, National Household Transportation Survey (U.S.), Operating costs, Paratransit services, Physical handicaps, Public transit, Retirement, Ridership, Spreadsheets


This report outlines the key demographic factors that affect public transportation use with a particular focus on how the aging demographics of the country will impact future transit ridership. In addition the report describes a spreadsheet tool that can be used to estimate the future effects of the aging population on public transportation use. The report is intended primarily for the use of public transportation agencies, including state departments of transportation that may provide public transportation service. The issue of the aging U.S. population is important for all sectors of the economy, especially as the Baby Boomer generation ages. The changes in public transportation use that come with age are dictated by the most common effects of age, including disability, lack of car ownership, retirement from the work force, and reduced income. Nonetheless, people aged 65 and over are expected to use the transportation system in similar ways to their younger counterparts. This report also includes a discussion of the relationship between ridership and demographic factors using data from the 2001 National Household Transportation Survey. This discussion explores specific mobility problems, examining predictors of staying home on a given day, and travel for non-institutionalized people with medical disabilities. The ridership model developed under this project provides a way for public transportation agencies to estimate the effect that the aging population in their service area will have on overall ridership and costs. Using past transit behavior and information about population trends, the model illustrates the impact of the growth of the aging population on transit ridership. The older population will be both growing as a total number and as a share of the total population over time. Generally, a growth in older population causes a decrease in regular transit use relative to total population growth. Increased disability rates in the older population also lead to a predicted increase in paratransit ridership. In general, this implies that for a given population level, transit agencies can expect somewhat decreased ridership and increasing costs as the population ages.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.