New report calls on TransLink to bring HandyDART services in house
'If you want the job done right, you’ve got to grab the reins,' says transportation planning consultant
A new report looking at HandyDART services is calling for Translink to bring the transportation service for people with disabilities and mobility issues in house as a public service rather than contracting it out to a large corporation.
Eric Doherty, a transportation planning consultant, presented the report to the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation on Thursday morning.
He said that the HandyDART service has been in a "crisis" for a number of years and that more accountable governance is needed.
"There are real problems with the service," Doherty said to CBC host of The Early Edition Rick Cluff.
In the report, drafted on behalf of the union representing HandyDART workers, Doherty highlights issues such as long wait times, trip denials and a declining number of per-capita services.
- HandyDART trip denials up 670% since 2008, says group
- Wait times for TransLink HandyDART rides are 'absolutely hell,' say advocates
"Everybody has recognized that there is an increased need because of the ageing population," he said. "But, basically, this crisis has been ongoing since 2013 and we haven't seen decisive action to make the situation better for the riders."
He said the root of the problem lies in the management of HandyDART—an appointed board which, prior to 2008 had been made up of elected mayors and councillors.
Doherty also took aim at the contract with the service provider.
"Basically, if you want the job done right, you've got to grab the reins and do it yourself," he said.
The door-to-door shared ride service for people is currently provided by MVT Canadian Bus Inc. — a U.S. corporation with a regional office in Surrey, B.C.
Chris Bryan, spokesperson for TransLink, said using a service provider does not negate TransLink's involvement.
"We are ultimately responsible for the HandyDART services," he said. "We have received a number of complaints and we take that very seriously."
He noted that several changes have been made to improve customer service and accessibility since a June 2016 review of polices.
Those include improvements to how reservations are made and how feedback is collected about the service.
- HandyDART trips to increase by 85,000 in 2017, says TransLink
- B.C. introduces bus pass supplements for people on disability assistance
The contract with MVT expires in July 2018.
Byran said that while there are no plans to bring the transportation service in house, TransLink will ensure that using a service provider is the most cost effective option.
"By doing it at better cost, we can put more service on the road," he said.
Doherty said he is hopeful about the future.
"There is some hope on the horizon," Doherty said.
"TransLink, Mayors Council and the newly-elected NDP government have committed to increasing HandyDart. We haven't seen it on the roads very much yet but the promise is there at least."
With files from The Early Edition.