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The Impacts of Locational and Travel Decisions of the Baby Boomer Generation on Future Transportation and Land Use Decisions

Problem Statement
The baby boomer generation, the largest population group in the United States, has started to approach the retirement age (baby boomers are defined as those born between 1946 and 1963). As this group reaches retirement or empty nest status, members are beginning to make decisions that impact the land use and transportation landscape. Some attribute the increase in downtown development in some urban areas to the decision of boomers to move from typical suburban homes to urban homes that provide better access to cultural amenities and other services (such as health care providers). There are ongoing efforts in the real estate industry to evaluate these implications, but the focus does not include transportation-related impacts. More rural, tourist areas are also experiencing an increase in year-round retirees. Each of these examples raises a series of issues related to baby boomer retirement that may need to be addressed. Issues include (but are not limited to):
• Provision of adequate services,
• Change (or no change) in travel behavior and the provision of the proper transportation
infrastructure to accommodate this behavior (e.g., transit, pedestrian facilities, etc.), Land Use2 Frank 182
• The adequacy of services in suburban areas to accommodate older residents with limited auto opportunities,
• Provision of “life cycle” housing that allows residents to remain in the same community as they age,
• Safety,
• General public health (nonauto choices for older residents that improve their overall health),
• Nonwork trip choices of retirees and the impact on commute patterns,
• The possible reduction of travel and air pollution in metropolitan areas,
• The possible decline in the demand for older suburban housing stock,
• Other secondary and indirect land market impacts, and
• Availability of home and community-based health care services.
Long-term strategies will be needed if this group has the type of impact that some are predicting. It is also likely that the boomers will exert a high level of political power and have a strong influence on decision making. This work could anticipate some of the boomer needs and provide a longer implementation window. The research effort could also assess the potential length of these boomer impacts. If these changes will only be in place for 15 to 25 years (if at all), is that a timeline worthy of any major shifts in transportation and land use decision making or can this be viewed as an expected demographic factor for all future cohorts?
This demographic shift could be compared to the impact of women entering the labor market in large numbers in the 1970s and the emergence of two-job households. Research results could point toward the development of Smart Growth-type strategies (e.g., downtown housing development and 24-h activity) to address some of these emerging trends. Results could also be built into long-term local-, regional-, and state-level transportation planning.

Proposed Research
The research effort would include two steps:
1. Collection and compilation of available information, and
2. Synthesis of information to determine the transportation and land use results.
Research efforts would include a literature search on the locational decisions and travel behavior of baby boomers now entering retirement age (work by the Brookings Institute, Harvard University, and Sandra Rosenbloom could be a start). A key goal would be to determine if these choices and patterns seem to differ from other age groups or if they are simply a continuation of current activities. Other work could include a review of locational information of boomers that entered retirement age between the 1990 and 2000 census. Any household travel surveys (such as the National Personal Transportation Survey) that account for age could also be assessed for any decision changes. It would also be important to determine if the available data are “ripe” for analysis (do we need more boomers to reach retirement age to do this research?).
The research would also include a review of locational and travel patterns for retirees over the last 20 years. Has there been a shift in choices and life styles? Are these choices likely to be the same for the boomers or are the boomers (because of wealth, education, and societal advances) going to behave differently? If the boomer choices are the same as for previous retirees, then the impact reverts solely to the large cohort issue.

Land Use2
Cost: $200,000
Duration: 24 months

Sponsoring Committee:AMS50, Economic Development and Land Use
Date Posted:08/08/2007
Date Modified:08/09/2007
Index Terms:Baby boomer generation, Location, Travel behavior, Decision making, Choice models, Mode choice, Route choice, Land use planning, Land use, Public health,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Pedestrians and Bicyclists
Public Transportation
Planning and Forecasting

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