Thursday, May 4, 2023

It's Time to Reinvest in HandyDART Service to Support our Aging Population

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1724, whose members provide paratransit service for the Metro Vancouver region, released a report called "Access for Everyone? Publicly Operated HandyDART In Metro Vancouver."

Paratransit provides door-to-door service for people with disabilities who cannot take conventional transit services, such as regularly scheduled buses and the SkyTrain.

A HandyDART vehicle. Source: Richard Eriksson

The operators of the HandyDART buses are specially trained to help people with disabilities. The buses are also specially equipped.

HandyDART is a lifeline for many people. My dad, who has passed away, but when he lived in Kelowna, used paratransit service to get to his doctor's appointments, for example.

Our population is aging, so there will be increasingly more demand for paratransit service, but this service has not kept up with demand.

Eric Doherty, the report's author, made several recommendations to improve HandyDART service in Metro Vancouver. Some of those recommendations include:

  • Stop contracting out HandyDART service, bringing the service in-house to improve staff retention as experienced operators provide better and more sensitive service for people with disabilities and to reduce HandyDART service performance issues
  • Investing in more HandyDART service to reduce the use of replacement taxi service, which "results in sub-standard safety and service" for people with disabilities
  • Increasing HandyDART trips to be more in line with other Canadian regions, as Metro Vancouver has "about half of the accessible transit trips per capita" of other Canadian regions
  • Electrifying the HandyDART fleet
  • Allowing HandyDART vehicles to use and activate transit-priority measures such as bus lanes

Beyond improvements to HandyDART service, the report also calls on making improvements to our conventional transportation systems to allow more people to access the system, including:

  • Reducing overcrowding on the conventional transit system
  • Installing accessible public washrooms at major transit transfer points
  • Creating high-quality bike, walking and roll routes that are protected from motor vehicles
  • Improving bus stops, including making access to bus stops barrier-free
  • Locating affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities close to high-quality transit and in walkable, bikeable, and rollable areas

For more information, please read the full report.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I support higher property taxes to improve access to services that promote safety, independence, and health for underserved members of our communities.