(Cross-posted from http://blog.aarp.org/shaarpsession/)
First, let me just say that I am a member of AARP. I've got four grown children and nine healthy grandchildren, and--like AARP--I think a lot about the quality of life in America for people over 50.
But, as Secretary of Transportation, it's my job to look for transportation solutions that improve the quality of life for all Americans.
That's why DOT policy encourages a variety of transportation options. And it's why we have partnered with HUD and EPA to coordinate investments that promote strong, livable communities with good housing choices in proximity to good transportation choices.
Livability has great cross-generational appeal; younger Americans as well as baby boomers and older Americans like this approach. So it's no wonder you find a city like New York, which has long attracted our nation's college graduates, getting a nod from the World Health Organization as the first in their new Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities.
"The City of New York," says WHO Director of the Department of Aging and Life Course Dr. John Beard, "has shown a real commitment to becoming an Age-Friendly City and has been very innovative in its approach. In doing so, New York is paving the way for creating livable and age-friendly communities across the globe."
I recently talked with Mike Cuthbert, host of AARP's Prime Time Radio, and with Sheilah Kast, host of their Inside E Street television program, about how our livability initiative affects seniors in particular.
Now, by livability, I mean being able to take your kids or grandkids to school, shop for groceries, or see a doctor without having to get into your car. And not having to give up your independence or mobility when you get older.
But that's not always easy. In fact, in an AARP study published last year, 40% percent of adults over 50 said their sidewalks were nonexistent or in disrepair. Others worried about the availability of transit service, particularly in rural communities where affordable access to services is a critical issue.
Well, whether it's sidewalks and streetcars or safe curbs and bus service, DOT supports a variety of choices. These approaches are good for the environment; they're good for breaking our addiction to foreign oil; and they're good for our health.
We'll always have cars; we'll always have trucks. And DOT will continue making sure our roads and bridges are in good repair. But people across the country have indicated they want options, and our livability initiative supports those options.
Of course, DOT is working on a number of other issues that will also improve safe and effective transportation for seniors.
For example, I've been on a rampage about distracted driving. And, while you may not suspect that older Americans are texting behind the wheel, some of them are. Many more of them are talking on their cell phones. And even though AARP members may not be the culprits in distracted driving crashes, we don't want them to be the victims of those crashes either.
High-speed rail is another example. They're already doing this in Europe and Asia. Why don't we have it here? There are many AARP members who don't relish the idea of flying or taking a long driving trip. So we want to make available a state-of-the-art high-speed intercity passenger rail system. Again, this way of getting around will complete a comprehensive American transportation system.
These programs are just a sampling of what we're working on at DOT. And these approaches aren't just good for AARP's constituents; they're good for America.