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Can rural older drivers meet their needs without a car? Stated adaptation responses from a GPS travel diary survey

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Rural seniors are highly dependent on their automobile to meet their trip making needs, yet the effects of aging can make access to the vehicle difficult or impossible over time. The anticipated growth in the older person population, in concert with limited travel data available to support rural transportation planning in Canada suggests a disconnect between what rural older people may require for transportation and the availability of formal alternatives. Many will seek informal alternatives to driving, such as depending on friends and family, to meet their travel needs, but the degree is not well understood in the context of their actual vehicle usage and stated ability to adapt. This paper draws from a Global Positioning System (GPS)-based multi-day travel diary survey of a convenience sample of 60 rural older drivers (29 men, 31 women, average age of 69.6 years) from New Brunswick, Canada. Participants would rely on “friends and family” for 52% of all trips they undertook as driver in the survey, “walk or bike” for 14% of trips, and “not take the trip” in 34% of trips if they did not have access to a vehicle. The formal option of “Transit” was not selected as a viable alternative by any participant for any trip. “Medical trips”, “Shopping” and “Personal Errands” were the least discretionary of all trip types, yet the most difficult for participants to find alternate arrangements. This suggests the need to explore different models of service delivery, such as a community-supported, member-based rural shuttle service with volunteer and paid drivers that build on informal social networks and can provide service when friends and family are unavailable.

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The authors acknowledge the financial support of Professor Albert and Ena Stevens and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council. The authors also want to thank the anonymous reviewers and Dr. David Hartgen for their insightful comments.

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Correspondence to Trevor R. Hanson.

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Hanson, T.R., Hildebrand, E.D. Can rural older drivers meet their needs without a car? Stated adaptation responses from a GPS travel diary survey. Transportation 38, 975–992 (2011).

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