Recently we partnered with the local branch of the Council of the Ageing (COTA-ACT) to host a forum exploring what the future of travel looked like for older non-drivers in Canberra.
COTA-ACT were focused on looking at innovation, and exploring whether there was more to life than ‘just buses’ for older people, and as a result they brought together an exceptional panel of transport innovators including:
- Graham McKerchar from the community transport program at Belconnen Community Services.
- David Gambrill from the ‘Bus Plus’ project at NICTA.
- Jessika Loefstedt – Manager of Public Policy and Government Relations with Uber.
- Ian Corey from the Community Transport Coordination Centre and the Flexible Bus Service in Territory and Municipal Services Directorate.
- Tracey Atkinson and Dean Hemana, dedicated Place Managers from Capital Metro, Canberra’s Light Rail project.
While the transport experts were at the forum to ‘pitch’ their service (or intended future service) to the participants, we started the conversation with the participants talking about their current experiences and what is or might be important about their travel journeys – as service users. The responses were diverse, but overall the kind of experience people were after included some stand-out hallmarks.
The hallmarks of the travel experience included:
- Flexibility – just because people were old and couldn’t drive wasn’t a reason that they shouldn’t have spontaneity of social interactions supported.
- Safety – not just the infrastructure but the journey itself in terms comfort and the impact of things like having to stand.
- Cohesion – If older people get off a bus (e.g. at the hospital) and then have a dangerous walk to get inside due to construction, that is not a good journey.
- Connection – transport that supports social circles, not just formal ‘older people’ events.
The travel experts were challenged by a vocal and engaged group of of people. They offered a range of potentially exciting and practical options for older non-drivers, including Uber making a commitment to return to the group for more structured demonstrations of its smartphone app
The Forum was an outstanding success and a credit to COTA-ACT and all of the organisations involved; older non-drivers in Canberra are well-serviced now by responsive transport options, and into the future look like they will have even more innovative options that will be of value to how people want to live and participate in their community.
The summary of the Forum can be viewed as a PDF via the COTA-ACT website.