TransLink will provide an update on its priorities for the year at its quarterly board meeting on Wednesday morning.
It will be providing an update on transit police, bus operations, and the SkyTrain Expansion project to Langley, and will also be presenting a report on accessibility.
The report provides “actions” that identify, remove and prevent barriers to individuals who interact with TransLink services. It has 32 actions that are distributed across four areas which are service design and delivery, built environment, information and communications, and transportation.
Among those actions is increasing HandyDART services by three per cent. This comes as HandyDART passengers and supporters have been vocal about the rise of private taxis being used as a substitute for HandyDART.
“We have a very strong tradition at TransLink of working with people with disabilities, and advocates, to learn from them and improve our system,” Sara Ross said, TransLink’s vice president of transportation and planning.
HandyDART is a door-to-door shared ride service for people with physical and cognitive disabilities.
More than a hundred HandyDART riders, family members and caretakers voiced their concerns with the “surge” in TransLink’s use of private taxis to complete rides in a virtual town hall last week.
“For HandyDART, we are also seeing ridership growth there,” Michael McDaniel said, Coast Mountain Bus Company’s president and general manager.
“We’re always prioritizing customers where they need to go or where they need to to their appointments and we do that through either HandyDART or through taxi service. We delivered 98 per cent of the requested trips and on-time performance for August was 91 per cent.”
A B.C. mother shared her “horrendous experience” regarding her non-verbal daughter and a taxi after the daughter was not escorted to her front door.
“She got lost for hours and it ended up in a full-on police dog helicopter search. … She could have been anywhere. She ended up walking across a highway, and she is not safe in traffic,” Viviane Schmidt Mumm said.
Eric Doherty, a transportation planner and researcher who presented at the town hall, reported that the use of taxis at HandyDART surged to 17 per cent last year.
HandyDART users said taxi drivers very rarely exit their vehicles to assist those who live with disabilities.
TransLink provided a statement last week regarding the situation.
“Trip demand for HandyDART has been increasing rapidly, leading to a higher need for supplemental taxi services,” a spokesperson said in an email.
“TransLink’s contractor that operates HandyDART services has increased their efforts to hire and train operators to reduce the number of trips that are being delivered through supplementary taxi services. So far in 2023, 74 new operators have been hired with more hiring to occur throughout the year.”
The 2023 Accessibility Plan can be read in full on translink.ca.
Other actions include increasing bus shelters, creating a new HandyDART application process, booking HandyDART online, and upgrading SkyTrain stations.