ACT News

Older non-drivers raise concerns over lack of Canberra transport

Demand for more accessible and cheaper transport in Canberra is nothing new, but older non-drivers have it particularly tough.

Anna Saxon has lived in Canberra for more than 40 years and spends 1½ hours travelling by bus from her Lyneham home to Ainslie, a trip that takes less than 10 minutes in a car.

Lyneham resident, Anna Saxon waiting for a bus with her guide dog. She finds it very difficult to get around Canberra ...
Lyneham resident, Anna Saxon waiting for a bus with her guide dog. She finds it very difficult to get around Canberra and plans to attend the Council on the Ageing forum.  Photo: Rohan Thomson

She can't bring both her guide dog and walker on the bus, but even without the walker, she and her dog can cause frustrating congestion in older buses.

On October 7, Uber, NICTA, Capital Metro, Belconnen Community Services and the ACT government's Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS) will unite at the Council on the Ageing (COTA) ACT's forum at Hughes Community Centre Hall to address transport solutions for seniors.

Ms Saxon hopes it will be different to other forums she's attended where "nothing really changes".

COTA ACT's Jane Thomson believes it will be.

"What we hope is that people start thinking out of the box about the transport needs of these people instead of continuing an unproductive debate about public transport," she said.

A COTA survey of nearly 500 older Canberrans found almost half experienced some difficulty travelling locally.

Those with mobility constraints or health conditions had the most trouble, with entertainment and social activities the hardest to reach. It found that when friends and relatives can't help seniors out, "life becomes quite difficult and the risks of isolation increase greatly".

"It will look at creative solutions for people such as the flexible bus service thats TAMS runs and takes people from door-to-door. It has been running for a year and funded for another year, so that's been really successful," Ms Thomson said.

However, Ms Saxon said the community buses can't always accommodate her guide dog.

Ms Thomson pointed to NICTA's pilot with the ACT government where locals hop in a taxi at the bus stop for the price of a bus ticket. They claim it would be cheaper to put some people into taxis than running empty buses to the Canberra outskirts on weekends and at night.

But Kambah senior Beverley Bruen​, who has never driven, thinks improving buses is more practical and urgent solution than replacing some.

"There would be more demand if they were more frequent, and closer for older people to walk to," she said.

"And the stairs on the old buses are really difficult; someone had to help me up the other day."

According to the COTA report, many seniors find taxis hard to book and disabled travellers are often refused short trips.

As for other proposed solutions, the ACT Light Rail stop would be beyond walking distance for Ms Bruen, and Ms Saxon would have safety concerns about the ride-sharing service Uber, which is coming to Canberra.

The forum will conclude with an open panel discussion for members of the public to contribute.