October 12, 2018 5:03 pm

Edmonton city councillor concerned that DATS report doesn’t tell whole story

A DATS vehicle in Edmonton, Jan. 20, 2017.

Vinesh Pratap, Global News
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A new report looking at Edmonton’s Disabled Adult Transit Service (DATS) leaves a lot of unanswered questions, according to a city councillor who says she has fielded all kinds of complaints about lack of service.

The review was written in response to an inquiry from Councillor Bev Esslinger. It said DATS provides nearly one million trips to approximately 10,000 registered clients.

The report details complaints about no-shows, unprofessional conduct by drivers and other concerns.

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In total, five per cent of all trips saw someone level a complaint.

“People are missing medical appointments [and] job interviews because of the timing. They have to get it in that window,” Esslinger said.

“That’s frustrating for people.”

She also said for the return trip, it’s common for someone to leave a meeting early just to wait at the curb so they don’t get stranded.

DATS targets a 30-minute pickup window, according to the report that was released on Friday.

The review found DATS surpassed its 2017 performance target that “90 per cent or more of DATS pickups are to occur on time” by achieving a 93.5 per cent result.

READ MORE: Councillor hears DATS users are being abandoned in the cold

Watch below: In January 2017, Vinesh Pratap filed this report about DATS becoming more accessible for eligible seniors while there is worry about added pressure on the system.

“The report tells the facts,” Esslinger agreed. “But there’s people behind every one of those incidents, and these are people that need support and we really have to make sure there’s a system that’s serving them well.

“That’s why I asked about, ‘What are you doing to improve it?'”

Esslinger said she is hoping clients who are unhappy show up to Monday’s executive committee meeting to talk about their complaints when the report is debated.

“I’ve heard people’s stories that said the timing isn’t quite right and I’m worried about missing those very vital appointments.”

The report specifies how winter causes the biggest performance problems. There are 215 people registered who are eligible to use the service in winter only. During the rest of the year, those people use conventional transit.

The report also identifies windrow problems where piles of snow at pickup locations complicate the process for both the clients and drivers.

According to the review, the city can’t increase the fleet of specialized vehicles because the Percy Wickman Garage is at capacity.

“I had never heard that before,” Esslinger complained. “That’s the first time I read it because that seems like something (addressing the capacity issue) you could work towards.”

READ MORE: DATS to offer discount for Edmonton seniors with disabilities starting in February

She said the problem should have been mentioned sooner when new garages were being planned and built.

“My hope was they might have had some strategies in place to work towards that,” Esslinger said. “I mean when you look at other services, we always talk about response time and things like that. I didn’t see that in this report.”

She also said she worries that other problems aren’t being reported.

“Are people not reporting because they’re frustrated?” she asked. “What is it that’s creating this angst?”

Esslinger said she plans on asking budget questions to see if more needs to be done on snow removal to make the system work more smoothly, or if money needs to be directed towards DATS.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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