Monday, October 25, 2010

Comprehensive Thoughts on Reauthorization

Two recent reports offer food for thought about reauthorization. One examines the macroeconomic issues at play and the other looks at the daily living needs of the population of those aging with disabilities.

Two Former Secretaries of Transportation

If we did not already know that reauthorization is overdue, the 92-page report, Well Within Reach America’s New Transportation Agenda, from the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, offers 10 reasons, with plenty of analysis to support its arguments, to invest now in transportation. Yes, two former Secretaries of Transportation participated in the conference leading to the report. Specifically, it calls for:
1. Investment to ensure the global competitiveness of the United States;
2. Investment in mobility options that reduce congestion at airports and on roads, especially high speed rail;
3. Returning to a pay-as-you-go funding mechanism for the nation’s highways, such as a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) system;
4. Investment in hi-tech air travel safety systems;
5. Investment and policy reforms that reduce traffic congestion; and
6. Investment in infrastructure to prevent an erosion of the “social and economic foundations for American prosperity in the long run.”

Looking for Long-Term Solutions

The report has a long term economic perspective. Without explicit names or programs, it criticizes “short-term fixes for unemployment or other problems.” It also calls for setting of a few priorities, adequately funding them, and accounting for them as long-term investments.

The report examines the Oberstar reauthorization bill and its recommendations are consistent with the bill, particularly in the area of livability and reduction of single-occupancy-vehicle (SOV) trips. It also addresses other topics, getting into the weeds on zoning, technology, performance measures, public/private partnerships and other issues.

Transportation-Challenged Populations Left Unmentioned

Even though the report concentrates on megatrends and large problems, it leaves unmentioned the large and growing population of older adults and people with disabilities. It does not discuss those who are unable to drive, those who cannot afford a privately-owned vehicle, or those who live in rural areas. Nor does it address transportation equity.

AARP's Look at Caregiving

In Trends in Family Caregiving and Paid Home Care for Older People with Disabilities in the Community: Data from the National Long-Term Care Survey, AARP examines the levels of disability older people are living with and how they are being taken care of - whether with assistive devices, family care, and/or formal and paid care. Though the report does not discuss transportation, it does analyze the needs of a many people who do not drive. This population has increased substantially in the last 15 years.

The report offers both a sober message and recommendations.

Clearly, most older people want to stay in their homes and communities when disability strikes, and the data presented in this report and its companion (Redfoot and Houser 2010) document the strong trend toward greater independence among older people with disabilities. But policy discussions have been too focused on saving money and too little focused on providing the supports needed to enable older people to retain their independence. And far too little attention is paid to providing the financial, technical, and respite support needed by family caregivers who are increasingly bearing the burdens of care. Building the network of services and supports for people with disabilities and their family caregivers should be a national priority today so that tomorrow’s much larger cohorts of older people can look forward to aging with dignity and independence.

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