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Car Driving and Public Transit Use in Canadian Metropolitan Areas: Focus on Elderly and Role of Health and Social Network Factors

  • Ruben G. Mercado
  • K. Bruce Newbold

Most studies analyzed the impact of decreased mobility on health and social network status, but only a few have provided evidence to understand how these latter factors could affect travel decisions or outcomes. This paper examined the linkage between people’s car driving and public transit use in Canada and their personal, health and social network characteristics, with a focus on the elderly population. The study exploits Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey (GSS-19), a unique survey with a nationally representative sample that contains questions on health, social network and transportation situation. Multilevel binary logistic regression models were estimated for the two travel modes. Results showed that regardless of age, poor health discourages both car driving and public transit use. Physical limitations that constrain mobility were found to decrease the likelihood of using public transit, a finding that was expected. However, a very interesting finding of this study is that even in the presence of physical or mental situations, mobility is still made possible through car driving. Relatedly, the study showed how important license possession and car ownership are to personal mobility and to be less dependent on other modes of transport including public transit. Findings from this study have also underlined that family network could play an important role in influencing both mobility decisions and provision. Car driving was found to be more likely when a person lives alone versus with one or more people in the household, a tendency that is stronger among the elderly than the non-elderly group. However, in the event of voluntary driving cessation, suspension of driving license, or when other means of transport would not be a convenient or feasible option, support from family members or caregivers could be critical given that, and as this study finding showed, elderly people are likely to continue to strive to maintain their driving skills even with a health condition, rather than prepare to stop driving. The size of close family networks did not show a considerable influence, but the quality of these ties (i.e. being close to family) was found relevant in public transit use. Results underlined implications to road safety, the development of alternative transport strategies and strengthening social support to help maintain mobility necessary for health and quality of life in later years.

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Paper provided by McMaster University in its series Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers with number 243.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:243
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  1. Geoffrey C. Smith, 2001. "Determinants of the Travel Behavior of the Suburban Elderly," Growth and Change, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(3), pages 395-412.
  2. Steg, Linda, 2005. "Car use: lust and must. Instrumental, symbolic and affective motives for car use," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 39(2-3), pages 147-162.
  3. Ruben Mercado & Antonio P�ez & K. Bruce Newbold, 2007. "Policy Areas Impinging on Elderly Transportation Mobility: An Explanation with Ontario, Canada as Example," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 187, McMaster University.
  4. Alsnih, Rahaf & Hensher, David A., 2003. "The mobility and accessibility expectations of seniors in an aging population," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 37(10), pages 903-916, December.
  5. Rye, Tom & Scotney, David, 2004. "The factors influencing future concessionary bus patronage in Scotland and their implications for elsewhere," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 133-140, April.
  6. Kieran Donaghy & Georg Rudinger & Stefan Poppelreuter, 2004. "Societal trends, mobility behaviour and sustainable transport in Europe and North America," Transport Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(6), pages 679-690, August.
  7. David J. Spiegelhalter & Nicola G. Best & Bradley P. Carlin & Angelika van der Linde, 2002. "Bayesian measures of model complexity and fit," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series B, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 64(4), pages 583-639.
  8. repec:rwi:repape:0011 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Sandra Rosenbloom, 2001. "Sustainability and automobility among the elderly: An international assessment," Transportation, Springer, vol. 28(4), pages 375-408, November.
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