The golden years
VISUALLY impaired Bill Pike refuses to let the challenges of public transport stop him getting around Auckland.
Mt Albert resident Mr Pike regularly uses the train with his guide dog Noble.
And thanks to the government’s SuperGold card initiative, his weekly trips are now free.
“It will enable people like myself, regardless of whether they have a guide dog or not, to get out and go places,” Mr Pike says.
“I will be able to go places I have never been and do things I would never have done before.”
The SuperGold card provides senior citizens with free public transport during off-peak hours.
The services came into effect on Wednesday to coincide with the International Day of Older People.
It’s available to senior citizens aged 65 or over and people who receive the New Zealand superannuation or the veterans pension.
Transport services are free from 9am on weekdays and any time on the weekend and public holidays.
The deal applies to the entire rail network, urban bus services and ferry services to Waiheke Island, Gulf Harbour and the North Shore.
Grey Power chairwoman of social services and publicity Violet McCowatt says the scheme will allow older people a level of independence they have never had before.
“Superannuitants will have access to free offpeak travel to hospitals, friends and family, and will be able to participate more fully in community and social activities in their areas without the travel costs being inhibitive,” she says.
“Seniors often rely on buses, trains and ferries as their primary means of transport, making affordable local public transport critical to their independence.”
Age Concern New Zealand president Liz Baxendine also welcomes the initiative.
“Free off peak travel will be great for older people and the additional patronage will be good for public transport,” she says.
“Older people will save money and be able to participate in their communities more.”
New Zealand Bus general manager for the Northern Region Warren Fowler says he is happy to see the service under way.
“We’re excited about welcoming Auckland’s senior citizens on board,” he says.
“Travelling by bus is a great way to get around the city and free bus travel will make the city more accessible for those over 65 years of age or on a veteran’s pension.”
Cards will be automatically sent to people receiving government superannuation or veteran’s pensions.
Others can apply by phoning 0800-254-565.
Train traveller: A government-funded scheme offering free public transport to senior citizens will make it easier for Mt Albert resident Bill Pike and his guide dog Noble to travel around Auckland.