Retiring boomers could pose challenge for transportation, infrastructure planners
WASHINGTON — Baby boomers started driving at a young age and became more mobile than any generation before or since. They practically invented the two-car family and escalated traffic congestion when women began commuting to work. Now, 8,000 of them are turning 65 every day, and those retirements could once again reshape the nation's transportation.
How long those 74 million people born between 1946 and 1964 continue to work, whether they choose to live in their suburban houses after their children leave home or whether they flock to city neighborhoods where they are less likely to need a car will have important ramifications for all Americans.
If boomers stop commuting in large numbers, will rush hours ease? As age erodes their driving skills, will there be a greater demand for more public transportation, new business models that cater to the home-bound or automated cars that drive themselves?
It was the boomers who made “his” and “hers” cars the norm when they started building families and helped spread a housing explosion to the fringes of the nation's suburbs.
This generation “has been the major driver of overall growth in travel in the United States and that has had a tremendous impact over the past 40 years in how we have approached transportation planning,” said Jana Lynott, co-author of a new report by the AARP Public Policy Institute on how boomers have affected travel in the U.S.
The report is an analysis of national surveys by the Federal Highway Administration of Americans' travel patterns since 1977.
Over the last four decades, the number of vehicles has nearly tripled, the report said, and total miles traveled has grown at more than twice the rate of population growth.
Since 1977, travel for household maintenance trips — a category that includes doctors' appointments, grocery shopping, dry cleaning and the like — has grown fivefold.
But what really caught transportation planners flat-footed was the soaring growth in traffic congestion in the 1980s after large numbers of women started commuting alone in their cars, said Nancy McGuckin, a travel behavior analyst and co-author of the AARP report.
Highway engineers, who hadn't anticipated the consequences of the women's movement and dual-earner families, had just finished building the interstate highway system only to find it insufficient to meet the demands of the new commuters, she said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Cole outduels Mets rookie, carries Pirates to victory
- Lowly job likely awaits former Pittsburgh police chief after prison
- Hempfield pair caught in vehicle scam
- Pirates notebook: Stewart, Cole develop rapport
- Pirates’ McCutchen laughs off pay stub leak
- Steelers interested in playing internationally again
- Trooper fatally shoots burglary suspect inside Somerset Twp. grocery store
- Online donors help Hempfield teen whose wallet was stolen
- Feds want to seize cash, property from suspects in drug bust
- ‘Dope sick’ man in custody in Mt. Pleasant stick-up
- Shareholder vote causes ATI to review executive pay packages