As older adults continue to represent a growing segment of the traveling public, it is increasingly important to document existing, develop new, and expand availability of effective travel training programs for older adults. The purpose of this training is to help increase use of conventional public transit services by older adults as they transition from driving. Travel training programs should be provided without regard to physical disabilities or cognitive impairments. Programs geared toward older adults with physical disabilities or cognitive impairments are often more prevalent; however, travel training programs for others are becoming more important as costs for providing alternate travel services increase. To make the best use of travel training programs, transit operators and other human services providers need to understand which components of current programs work best in which situations, the most likely target groups for such programs, and the best way to conduct outreach to that target group. Travel training for older adults has become more common because it encourages greater ridership using conventional public transit services, and transferring ridership from paratransit to conventional public transit can potentially decrease overall transit system operating costs. At the same time, there is interest in improving the quality of life of older adults by expanding opportunities for increased mobility and continued independence for those not so constrained by physical or cognitive disabilities that use of conventional public transit remains feasible. Transit operators need better information to understand (1) how effective travel training can increase ridership, (2) which older adults are likely to benefit from travel training, (3) what barriers have to be overcome, and (4) what elements of travel training programs are linked to greater success among different groups of older adults.
The objective of this research is to prepare a handbook for transit agencies and human services providers on how to create, implement, sustain, and evaluate travel training programs for older adults able to use conventional public transit. This handbook should address the primary components of an effective travel training program for older adults, including but not limited to the following: (1) defining the target market for travel training; (2) identifying incentives and barriers to participation in training programs and subsequent use of conventional public transit; (3) presenting effective marketing and outreach; (4) presenting opportunities and techniques for customized training; (5) identifying and describing methods to monitor outcomes, refine techniques, and sustain ridership; and (6) evaluating cost-effectiveness to the provider as well as the recipient of training. The evaluation process should also address the potential change in quality of life experienced by older adults who participate in and benefit from transit system travel training.
Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.
(1). Identify, review, and synthesize existing material in support of this research through published literature as well as other sources. The purpose of this review is not to revisit literature that has already been reported on in previous studies, but, rather, to build on those efforts—identifying concepts presented that have been implemented as well as innovations and advances that have subsequently emerged. (2). Describe different models for travel training for older adults and identify examples of each. Which kinds of agencies are implementing which models, and how many similar examples are currently in operation? Prepare a case study research strategy or an alternative approach to (1) gather information from these existing programs and (2) identify and evaluate the most effective or best practices currently in use.(3). Based on the research approach selected as the output of Task 2, examine transit travel training programs in urban, suburban, and rural environments. The selected research approach should at a minimum address the following questions: (1) What components of these programs are usable in other locations? (2) What institutional structures have been used to prepare and deliver the training program? (3) What adaptations would have to be made as a function of specific local conditions or characteristics? (4) What marketing techniques and incentive programs have been successful in bringing older adults into the program? (5) What tools and techniques have been used to evaluate programs and measure cost effectiveness both to the agency providing as well as the older adult population receiving transit training? (The issue of cost-effectiveness must also consider potential cost savings achieved by shifting use of paratransit to conventional transit as an outcome of the training program.) (6) How are travel training programs addressing and remediating psychological and other barriers? (7) What approaches have been used to address the impact of transit training on quality of life experienced by older adults? (8) What are agencies doing to maximize sustainability of their programs and reinforce transit use among program participants over time? (4). Using the output of Task 3, present effective or best practices and formulate transit travel training models linking travel training program components to specific target audiences. The result of this task would be a set of criteria and a decision-making strategy for developing training models that are flexible and adaptable to the unique requirements of a variety of intended older adult audiences. (5). Prepare a detailed outline of the handbook that will guide transit agencies and human services providers in the preparation and implementation of effective transit travel training programs for older adults. (6). Prepare an interim report summarizing the result of Tasks 1 through 5. The interim report should include a summary of conclusions and evaluations based on travel training program experience; recommendations for innovative design and presentation of the final product for this research; and an updated detailed work plan for subsequent tasks. (7). Prepare a handbook that presents models of a successful travel training program. The draft of the handbook should address how the transit/travel training models meet the objectives of this study: (1) how to set up an effective marketing program; (2) what kinds of incentive programs are effective; (3) how to identify and overcome barriers to participation; (4) how training can be customized to meet specific needs of the target population; (5) what tools and techniques can be used to monitor and evaluate individual and program outcomes, refine techniques, and sustain ridership; and (6) what tools and techniques can be used to evaluate benefits to the provider as well as the recipient of training, including the potential for shifting ridership from paratransit to conventional transit. Other program options should be included that arise from the research and the evaluation of effective or best practices. The handbook should also highlight and describe unique and innovative programs that would be of special interest to training providers. (8). Prepare a final report that includes the handbook and the underlying research. The final report will also include an executive summary that presents the key findings of the study and describes the primary components of the handbook.