British Columbia

Wait times for TransLink HandyDART rides are 'absolutely hell,' say advocates

Some users of HandyDART, TransLink's door-to-door ride service for seniors and people with disabilities, say a shortage of drivers is forcing commuters to wait up to a week for a ride — only to be told no driver is available.

TransLink says wait times are down 80 per cent thanks to additional taxi service

HandyDART users say they have to wait up to a week for a ride. (CBC)

Some users of HandyDART, TransLink's door-to-door ride service for people with disabilities and seniors, say a shortage of drivers is forcing commuters to wait up to a week for a ride  only to be told no driver is available. 

"It is absolutely hell, because that means we live our lives around the HandyDART call centre," said Beth McKellar with the HandyDART Riders' Alliance

McKellar and the alliance are calling for more funding for services, and will be taking their concerns to an open meeting of TransLink's board of directors on Wednesday morning. 

The HandyDART Riders' Alliance says cuts to the service are the cause of the increase in wait times. 

A report obtained through a freedom of information request in 2013 showed that HandyDART trip denials increased 670 per cent since 2008. The transportation planner who authored the report said TransLink hadn't kept pace with the region's aging demographic. 

TransLink denied those claims, saying there were discrepancies in how trip denials were recorded, and that only three per cent of all trips in 2012 had been refused. 

Taxis not a solution: advocate

In 2013, TransLink started deferring some HandyDART requests to taxis. It said that has helped to decrease the number of unfulfilled trips by more than 80 per cent in the past 18 months.

But that move has prompted harsh criticism from users, who have concerns about safety and quality of service. 

"They're supposed to open the door for you, help strap you in and close the door for you. Out of 20 drivers in the last two years, I think three out of the 20 were exceptional," said McKellar. 

TransLink said special training is available for taxi drivers who choose to take on HandyDART trips.

With files from Kiran Dhillon

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