Council cab is a link and a lifeline for Phyllis
FOR Miami resident Phyllis Sibbison, the Gold Coast City Council cab service has delivered far more than regular trips to the shops ? she now has three travelling companions and firm friends in her neighbourhood.
A full-time carer to housebound husband Douglas, who suffers from dementia, 78year-old Phyllis has been a regular council cab user since the service was introduced locally in February this year.
It has given her a greater measure of independence, as well as a practical way to access shopping, services and a well-earned break from home.
The driver assists Phyllis and her friends with loading and unloading walking aids and shopping parcels and helps them in and out of the cab.
While it is all just part of the service for the drivers, to Phyllis, it is a vital source of freedom and friendship.
Originally from Melbourne, Mrs Sibbison has been a resident of Miami for the past 12 years, but it was only this year that she met three important neighbours ? each of them regular council cab passengers like her, and all are now firm friends.
"Every fortnight the cab collects me and three other ladies and we go to Stocklands at Burleigh, where I go shopping and perhaps have a light lunch," she said.
Like Mrs Sibbison, most council cab users are women, over the age of 70.
A new anonymous and confidential survey of users has underlined the need for the service, especially among older women living alone.
Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke, who championed the concept of a publicly-subsidised cab system for residents aged over 60, welcomed the survey as further support for the service.
Funded through the City Transport levy, council cab services will be provided to more than 90 per cent of all people aged 70 and over, when stage three of the program is introduced early next year.
"This is the second council-initiated survey and follows a recent comprehensive study by Griffith University.
"All of these have shown there is a clear need in the community for a service which complements other modes of transport and improves the lives of our older residents," Cr Clarke said.
Women who use the service are predominantly living alone and likely to have lived at the same address for more than five years.
"While a quarter still hold a drivers' licence, only a third of these still run a car," Cr Clarke said.
Respondents in the survey stated a range of obstacles to walking and to using public transport, but the vast majority would not consider moving to another area with better access to goods and services.
Cr Clarke said that while just over a third of recipients responded, the details collected would help further tailor the service to better suit users.
That will no doubt be good news for others like Phyllis Sibbison.
While she has never held a licence herself, Mrs Sibbison misses being able to call on her husband Douglas ? a former Commonwealth driver ? to run her to the shops.
Once a driver to royalty, politicians and high-ranking officials, including Queen Elizabeth when she was still a Princess, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Douglas is now housebound.
"We were alright until April last year when Doug had to give up his licence and I've never driven a car. I always had a husband or father or someone to drive me," Mrs Sibbison said.
For Phyllis Sibbison, the Council Cab is a lifeline and a link to the world outside her door.