Will Older Californians Step into Ride-Sharing Services? Evaluating the Potential of Transportation Network Companies to Enhance Multimodal Travel for Seniors

Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) represent a potentially valuable but little-used smart mobility option for the fast-growing numbers of California seniors who risk social isolation because they cannot drive for health or financial reasons. 

The California Department of Finance (2017) forecasts that one in five Californians, over 8 million people, will be a senior within ten years. Many members of this growing cohort are healthy and active in their communities even if they cannot drive. Seniors hold jobs, take care of family members, volunteer, shop, and socialize. 

As this large group of current and soon-to-be seniors age in place—often in suburban locations—some suffer from social isolation due to a lack of transportation options (Shen et al. 2017; Dobbs 2012). Even when alternatives to driving oneself are available, relatively few seniors use shared modes of transportation regularly (Feigon et al. 2018). This limited access increases dependence on family and friends for rides, which in turn lessens engagement in society and reduces quality of life and well-being (Levasseur et al. 2015). 

New transportation technologies such as TNCs and micro-transit (Bizjak 2018) are potentially a tool to resolve some of these access and equity issues (Shaheen et al. 2017). TNCs represent a feasible mobility option for the many seniors who use the internet and live in urban and suburban communities. However, TNCs so far have not proven attractive to seniors, with most users being younger college-educated individuals making discretionary trips in high-density urban environments (Hughes and MacKenzie 2016; Rayle et al. 2016). 

This study will explore whether perceptions about TNCs vary among different types of current and soon-to-be seniors as defined by characteristics that research suggests are likely to be relevant: attitudes, age, gender, and location. Previous research has demonstrated that age negatively impacts comfort with using technology (Peek et al. 2016; Sixsmith 2013). There are also almost certainly gender-based differences in seniors’ willingness to use TNCs, both because travel patterns differ by gender (Siren and Haustein 2016; Su and Bell 2012; Meng and Siren 2015; Rosenbloom and Herbel 2009) and because early research suggests that there are also differences in how men and women perceive TNCs (Shirgaokar 2018). In terms of location, we will explore whether views differ depending on urban form characteristics like density and distance to transit or other transportation services. 


Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility
San José State University

Principal Investigator: 

Asha W. Agrawal, Ph.D.

PI Contact Information: 

Mineta Transportation Institute
San José State University
210 N. 4th St., 4th Floor
San Jose, CA 95112

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization): 

U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology – $73,428

Total Project Cost: 


Agency ID or Contract Number: 



September 2018 to July 2020

Project Number: