Golden oldies ride for free for longer

A program which sees Gold Coast seniors ride public transport for free, has been extended.

Currently the service is accessed by 22,000 older residents.

A trial of the program was introduced two years ago and was an initiative of Mayor Tom Tate.


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It offers eligible seniors free travel on local buses during off-peak periods.

Cr Tate has been pushing the State Government to approve the extension for months.

This week Transport Minister Jackie Trad wrote to Cr Tate with the news the initiative would be extended to June 2016.

The Mayor said the program had exceeded all expectations and had become an important part of the local public transport mix.

“Nothing frustrated me more than seeing empty seats on buses which could otherwise be filled with seniors visiting family, the local shops or our community centres,” said Cr Tate.

“It was like seeing good fruit spoil on the shelf.

“Almost immediately we saw a surge in the number of locals using public transport, many of whom were using it for the first time ever.”

The success of the program was highlighted in a recent survey of 6500 registered users.

Preliminary results obtained by the Gold Coast Sun reveal an overwhelming majority of seniors back the continuation of the program.

Over 40% of seniors said they were not using buses before the program started with nearly two-thirds now travelling for free up to five times a week.

Mayor Tom Tate said the most significant change has come from car owners.

“The hallmark of a good public transport initiative is one that takes cars off the road and lessens congestion for other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians,” said Cr Tate.

“While nearly 85% of free seniors travel users still own a car, an incredible 90% now say that they’re taking fewer overall car trips.”

The Mayor said the program was good public policy and deserved to continue.

“This is not just a transport initiative – it is our greatest ever social reform because it gives local seniors the opportunity to remain connected and engaged in the community,” said Cr Tate.

“Most importantly it is keeping families together by allowing many grandparents the opportunity to play a part in everyday family life.”

 

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