As Metrolinx pushes transit, seniors say they need better service

Main concerns from senior residents are lack of service and irritable drivers.
Metrolinx is sponsoring a series of workshops to give senior commuters the bus basics. (CBC)

Metrolinx wants to see more senior citizens riding the bus, but some of those seniors say the service needs to improve first.

The province's regional transportation agency for Hamilton and the GTA is sponsoring a series of educational seminars that encourage Hamilton seniors to choose public transit rather than private vehicles when the need to get around.

Metrolinx has teamed up with local environmental group Green Venture — a local non-profit that provides education and programming with a focus on environmentally friendly practices — to give local seniors a refresher in bus-riding basics. On Tuesday, the first of four local workshops was held at the Westdale Library.

Public transit it is accessible to seniors and encourages healthy activity, according to Green Venture education coordinator Virginia Stonehouse. The Hamilton Street Rail (HSR) also offers several incentives for senior passengers, including reduced rates for those over 65 and free fares for those 80 years or older.

But while many of the workshop's attendees were interested in parking their cars and taking the bus, they cited problems with local transit that are holding them back.

Paul Bart, 71, lives in Dundas. He recently injured his eye, disrupting his vision and ability to drive. He and his wife Corienne, 73, attended the workshop to learn more about what kind of services were offered for older passengers and how they can take advantage of the system. But they noted the lack of service in their area was a deterrent.

"They used to have [full service] years ago but they pulled it. I guess there wasn't enough people," Paul said.

"The only thing that would get me to sell my house is that there's no bus except during rush hour," Corienne added. "I feel left out there because I love my home and I don't want to leave, but that [lack of service] would make me."

A lack of service or infrequent service in some areas is a complaint Green Venture has heard over and over at previous workshops, Stonehouse said.

The second most common topic is grumpy or unhelpful drivers, she added.

"The next biggest complaint is the bus drivers. Some say that maybe they should be the ones to come to a workshop," she said, adding that HSR drivers do undergo customer service training.

Susan Malseed, 62, of Strathcona North, has had more positive experiences with transit and just wanted to brush up on the finer details of the HSR.

"Right now I have the use of a car, but that will end in April," she said. "It's been awhile since I've used the bus, but I've never had a problem."

Attendees were also given a tutorial in using the internet to help plan trips or check for delays, and were offered an opportunity to go on a free test-drive of the HSR to get more comfortable with the system.

The next three workshops will take place:

  • Feb. 25, 10:30 a.m.-noon at Turner Park Library, 352 Rymal Rd. East
  • Feb. 28, 10:30 a.m.-noon at New Village Retirement Home, 490 Hwy. 8
  • March 4, 9:30-11 a.m. at Sackville Hill Seniors’ Recreation Centre, 780 Upper Wentworth St.