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Photo by Dan Keeton
A new report shows that HandyDART trip denials in Metro Vancouver increased by 670% in only five years. Data obtained through a freedom of information request shows that people with disabilities and seniors were denied service 4,900 times in 2008, 13,400 times in 2010 and 37,700 times in 2012.
“Other folks in society are sentenced to house arrest for committing a crime,” says HandyDART Riders Committee spokesperson and former Vancouver City Councillor Tim Louis. “We have committed no crime and yet are sentenced to house arrest when demand for rides outstrips capacity to provide rides because politicians won’t make transit funding a priority.”
“Over the last five years the population of people over 70 in Metro Vancouver has increased by two and a half times that of the general population and funding for HandyDART service has not kept pace” says transportation planner Eric Doherty who authored the report Metro Vancouver’s Aging Population and the Need for Improved HandyDART Service. “The number of people over 70 in Metro Vancouver will increase by 40% in the next decade. This translates into a greater number of people with disabilities and much greater need for HandyDART service.”
HandyDART is TransLink’s custom transit service for people with disabilities who cannot use the regular transit system for at least some trips.
The report shows that TransLink budgeted for 613,000 hours of HandyDART service in 2011, but due to the transit funding crisis this has been cut back to 598,000 hours – a reduction of 15,000 hours. TransLink’s Base Plan shows HandyDART service hours frozen at this reduced level until 2023. The provincial government has delayed transit improvements pending a transit funding referendum to be held by November 2014.
In addition, 10,000 hours have been cut from HandyDART and the budget re-allocated to a taxi pilot project.
“This report documents that substituting taxis for dedicated custom transit vehicles endangers riders, without any real cost saving” says Louis who once suffered a broken leg due to a taxi driver not securing his wheelchair properly. “We are organizing a new coalition to defend our rights, which include the right to safe transportation.”
At the end of 2013 TransLink will decide whether or not to continue reducing HandyDART service in favor of using more taxis.
“Seniors and people with disabilities deserve safe and quality service" says Bob Chitrenky, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1724 which commissioned the study. “It is time to make the investments in public transit, including HandyDART, needed to make Metro Vancouver a livable and age friendly region.”
The ad-hoc HandyDART Riders Committee and ATU 1724 are co-organizing a public forum on HandyDART Saturday November 23rd 12:30 to 2:30 at the Dogwood Pavilion Seniors Centre, 624 Poirier Street, Coquitlam.