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HandyDART taxi funding not enough

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

TransLink's HandyDART service will still miss about 10,000 customers each year despite additional funding announced this month.

TransLink's HandyDART service will still miss about 10,000 customers each year despite additional funding announced this month.

The increased funding TransLink has alloted to bolster the HandyDART service will still leave about 10,000 trip “denials” each year — and some customers are furious.


Executives were bombarded Wednesday with concerns of lacklustre HandyDART service — community shuttles that pick up and drop off people with disabilities — at the TransLink annual general meeting in Surrey.

“My son can’t get to a medical appointment, can’t get to school ... because he’s been denied services by HandyDART over 40% of the time,” said mother Kimberley Yanko.

“It’s deplorable. I challenge each and every one of you to get in a wheelchair and not get out of it for a week.”

TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis acknowledged that HandyDART funding has not increased in three years, but said TransLink recently invested $1 million for taxi supplements in cases where HandyDART shuttles aren’t appropriate or are unavailable.

That funding is expected to cut down last year’s 40,000 trip denials — cases where customers can’t board because shuttles are full — by three-quarters, said TransLink chief financial officer Cathy McLay.

She said the money was taken from TransLink’s $36.8-million surplus left behind from 2013.

“We looked at our financial capability, how much we can afford, and what’s the best outcomes on it,” McLay said. But there are also some inefficiencies, particularly with trip cancellations — cases where there are passenger no-shows or last-minute cancellations on bookings — since those were responsible for about 24,000 lost spaces last year, she said.

It’s also undetermined what’s more cost-effective. One argument came from Jill Weiss, chairwoman for the Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, that taxis are twice as effective per dollar. She wants TransLink to consider more funding for taxis.

Others questioned how much training taxi drivers have compared to HandyDART shuttle operators.

“I’m worried about folks living with dementia and Alzheimer’s being dropped off at the curbside and then wander off — just because the taxi driver not being completely aware of the importance of door-to-door service,” said transit user Craig Langston.

Transport planner Eric Doherty argued taxis take short cuts or risk losing business, since many are independent operators and time is money. 

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