In a city like Portland, it is easy to imagine mid-rise Transit Oriented Development conveniently located next to the rail and bus lines. But what happens when older adults live outside the dense urban framework? Are older people who live a suburban lifestyle expected to move to the nearest transit station? One cannot expect everyone to make that change. For those who choose to age in place, other solutions need to be considered.
Until recently, golf carts did not have much place other than on private roads, behind gated communities and on the lush golf courses. However, they are becoming an innovative transportation solution, catching the attention of many older adults and city leaders as viable means of primary mobility.
|Figure 1: Golf carts for mobility|
But change is coming. Approximately 100 miles east of Los Angeles lay the Coachella Valley, a perfect petri dish to implement and study golf cart travel as a legitimate transportation mode choice. The region is host to numerous golf resorts, low-density developments and most importantly, a significant population of elderly adults.
|Figure 2: Location of the Coachella Valley, Source: |
|Figue 3: Shared golf cart and bicycle path in Rancho Mirage, Source [Author]|
|Figure 4: The City of Rancho Mirage Golf Cart Map (2012) Source: |
But, as with any transportation network, it is important to look beyond the city limits. The Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) has embarked on an ambitious plan to construct a valley-wide multi-purpose path . The 52-mile path would be shared by golf carts, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. And as driver reaction times and other motor functions slow down with age, having older adults out of the automobile driver seat, off the main roads and onto a separated cart path is something that could benefit all roadway users.
The path is estimated to cost over $70 million to construct and would not only benefit golf cart users but boost bicycle ridership and other forms of active transportation. If constructed, the Coachella Valley can serve as a leading example of how smart transportation planning can ensure safe, sustainable, and secure transportation options for an aging suburban population.
Thanks to Josh Capps for reviewing this blog post.