Thursday, November 27, 2014

Health Issues Group Blog Post: COTA Transport forum by Nicholas Wales

Health Issues Group Blog Post: COTA Transport forum by Nicholas Wales

Jane Thomson from Council on the Ageing (COTA) came out to HCCA on the 13th of November 2014 to present an insight to COTA’s study on how older people in the ACT travel and transport options.

In 2013 COTA ACT conducted research on how older people in the ACT travel. The aim was to find out how older people in the ACT travel and to identify and explore the issues to recognise potential solutions/improvements.

443 people responded to the survey resulting in the following:

       78% of respondents had access to a car.
       60% used buses (31% of those didn’t drive)
       Nearly half said they had difficulty travelling.
       Older age groups & people with mobility/health problems much more likely to have difficulty.
       People weren’t aware of all the transport options
       People felt transport was important for social connection and were afraid of becoming socially isolated

From the survey findings COTA put together A Guide to Getting Around in Canberra, for older Canberra residents which was printed in October. The guide gives an overview of transport options including buses, community transport, flexible transport, taxis, scooters, bikes and walking. It also includes advice about how to use or combine these options, relevant phone numbers and web sites and information about social clubs and recreational opportunities.

COTA also provides free individual and group transport training which is delivered by volunteers. The free individual transport training can be delivered to people in their homes, it has been available since June 2014. This service is help build the skills and confidence by going along on bus trips and provide info on services, social supports and connections. The free group training has been running since July 2014, it provides a presentations to groups of older people on transport options. It covers options, tips and ideas with info on services, supports and connections. For more information on training click here.

Jane then went on to looking at the main transport options in Canberra. She listed driving, buses, community transport, taxis, scooters, bikes and walking as the 7 primary options for travel in Canberra.
Driving is a great while you can do it but can be a challenge when you lose the licence. NRMA provides a Safer Driving School which can help seniors assess their skills and retain their licence. Park & Ride can help minimise driving and also avoid parking charges.

Buses are a cheap mode of transport (free if you’re over 70), however they are hard to use if you have poor balance and/or mobility. There are also major issues with frequency and reach, especially on weekends, so where possible use the frequent bus network. NXTBUS is better than written or online timetables as it tells you how far the bus is away from your stop or if you have missed it. Accessible buses make it easier to get on and off the bus, however accessible buses only run on some routes.

Community Transport
Community transport is available through the 5 regional Community Services Organisations for eligible residents in their designated areas. The service offers door to door but are not always flexible and/or available, as this service prioritises medical over social travel. The Belconnen Community Services offers whole of Canberra service. There is also a Flexible Bus Service which is available for members of the community with limited access to public transport. Their contact number is 6205 3555

The taxi service will take you door to door, however this service is expensive and there can be driver behaviour issues. Fares can be reduced, such as sharing or the taxi subsidy scheme. The ACT Taxi Subsidy Scheme provides financial assistance to ACT residents with a disability or significant mobility restriction that prevents them using public or community transport.

Other options
Scooters and bikes
Scooters are great for short trips. There is lots of advice around – Independent Living Centre, AusScooter, Guardian Mobility and Scooter Safe handbook. Scooters can go on accessible bus, if meet size/type conditions, but you cannot drive them on a main road.
Electric bikes are a great substitute for easy travel, as the electric motor will assist you when needed. Bike hire available through SEE-CHANGE. Electric bikes can use on footpaths, cycle paths and roads

Walking is great for your health, however poor paths and ramps can be an issue. Fix My Street is an ACT Government initiative, where the public can put in a repair request for a specific location. You can contact them online or phone 13 22 81.

Jane stated that COTA will continue providing transport training and information through volunteer peer-educators. COTA would also like to update the transport Guide, this is depending on feedback and funding.

COTA will continue to lobby for better transport options in Canberra with the help of community involvement.

If you would like any further information on the services and information COTA supplies please contact them on 02 6282 3777 or email
You can also visit their website at:

HIP Project Officer 
Nicholas Wales

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