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SD Transportation Options Slim, Even as Senior Population Grows

June 17, 2011

SIOUX FALLS, S. D. – Many South Dakota seniors counting on public transportation to get them to doctor appointments or even the grocery store may be left without a ride by 2015, according to a new report released by Transportation for America.

The report found that more than 10,000 people, or 48 percent of Sioux Falls seniors, will be living in communities with poor or no access to public transportation. Ronald Baumgart, executive director for River Cities Public Transit, Pierre, says transportation-related cuts have a significant impact on more rural areas.

"We have communities that don't have grocery stores, don't have drug stores, don't have clinics. These folks still want to stay in their communities; they want to support their kids, grandkids, in school functions – but they're finding it harder and harder to stay there, if they can't access their daily needs."

According to the study, seniors who can no longer drive make 15 fewer trips to the doctor, even at a time when many have increased medical needs.

Lacking access to public transportation, says Baumgart, seniors could be forced to make permanent changes that affect their lives, as well as the overall health of their communities. He says increased transportation funding could help avoid other costs in supporting the senior population, including medical care or services.

"What are the costs if those folks can't stay in their homes or their community, and have to move or be placed in a home? It all adds up. I think, certainly, we face some serious issues in the rural areas, with many of the small towns declining in population anyway."

The study, "Aging in Place, Stuck Without Options," comes as Congress prepares this summer to adopt a new national transportation bill. It calls for boosting transportation funding for communities, and incentives for transit operators to find new transportation solutions. It is online at www.t4america.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - SD