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Thunder Bay Transit assures disabled passengers

Thunder Bay Transit is trying to reassure passengers who use its specialized bus service for people with disabilities.

City of Thunder Bay to take over HAGI Transit, but some passengers worry about service

As part its transit master plan, the City of Thunder Bay City will soon take over HAGI Transit buses. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Thunder Bay Transit is trying to reassure passengers who use its specialized bus service for people with disabilities.

In a few months, the city will take over HAGI transit, and many passengers are worried about the change. 

Frances Bourgeois uses Thunder Bay Transit whenever possible. 

Frances Bourgeois was one of 15 who attended Tuesday's open house to talk about the transition of HAGI to Thunder Bay Transit. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

But in the winter, snow-covered sidewalks make it hard to wheel herself from home to the bus stop.

If she wants to get groceries she has to wait, because HAGI requires seven days notice to book a trip.

At an open house meeting on Tuesday, Bourgeois heard officials with city transit pledge to do better.  

"They said that the time frame will be less but [I'm] pretty skeptical,” Bourgeois said.

Second meeting planned for Thursday

The head of the city's accessibility advisory committee knows first-hand what it’s like to navigate Thunder Bay with a disability. Tessa Soderbergh is visually impaired.

"There is a lot of anxiety in the disabled community [with regard to] the city's takeover of ... accessible transit,” she said.

Soderbergh said people are mostly worried they won't qualify for door-to-door van service under the new system.

Thunder Bay Transit said it encourages people with disabilities to use conventional buses — which are all wheelchair accessible — whenever they can. But said people needing its specialized van service will get it. 

In the meantime, the Accessibility Advisory Committee asks anyone with concerns about the takeover of HAGI transit to come to another meeting on Thursday.     Thunder Bay Transit staff will be on hand to answer questions and take suggestions.

The open house starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Victoria Inn. 

Only about 15 people attended the first open house on Tuesday.

Soderbergh said she hopes more people will come to the next meeting.

"I'd just like to see more of the disabled people come out ... and get the word straight from transit,” she said. “Instead of ... worrying about what's going to happen, what's not going to happen and spreading rumours."

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