Report urges TransLink to run HandyDART as a public service

A new report argues that boosting HandyDART funding and operating it fully within TransLink will help handle the coming demographic challenges.
A new report argues that boosting HandyDART funding and operating it fully within TransLink will help handle the coming demographic challenges. Global News

Metro Vancouver’s aging population has some concerned that HandyDART buses won’t be able to keep up with demand.

Now, a new report recommends boosting funding for the service and returning it to full TransLink control to help handle the coming demographic challenge.

HandyDART is a door-to-door shared ride service that uses short buses with specially-trained drivers and accommodates transit passengers with physical or cognitive disabilities, as well as seniors with mobility challenges.

READ MORE: HandyDART riders call for TransLink board to be sacked

“The population of people over 70 is growing very rapidly. We’ve got this rapid increase in demand,” said transportation planning consultant Eric Doherty, who presented the report to the Metro Vancouver Mayors Council on Thurday.

The report was commissioned by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1724, which represents HandyDART drivers.

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Doherty’s report recommended that the service be operated fully as a subsidiary of TransLink, rather than contracting it out to a third party as is current policy.

The report argued that contracting the service “will likely compromise quality of service without any real cost saving,” and said TransLink needs to invest “considerable amounts of money in both capital and operating costs” to improve the quality of service.

The report also called for a variety of wider measures to assist HandyDART users with transit.

Those included using larger, regular buses with more space for wheelchairs and scooters, offering training for seniors and persons with disabilities who want to use regular transit and improving sidewalks and crosswalks regionwide.

READ MORE: Shorter wait times and more rider availability needed for HandyDART users: Study

TransLink approved more funding to HandyDART last November as a part of phase one of its 10-year vision on transit and transportation.

The Mayors’ Council has promised a 15-per-cent increase in HandyDART service over the next three years, while the provincial government has pledged to fund a separate five-per-cent increase in service over four years beginning in 2018.

Translink CEO Kevin Desmond insists HandyDART services are a top priority.

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“We don’t disagree that we should be working with the provincial government as we have an aging population.”

A province-wide survey of riders conducted earlier this year by B.C.’s seniors’ advocate found significant dissatisfaction with HandyDART service.

One-third of respondents said it was failing to meet their transportation needs, with two in 10 saying it is too expensive.

  • With files form Isabella Zavarise