Handi-Transit users meet to discuss new system

Around 50 Handi-Transit users met at the Millennium Library in Winnipeg on Saturday to learn about changes to the ride service and provide feedback to make it better.

Current Handi-Transit software was implemented in 2004

Advocates for disabled residents found it "kind of shocking" Transit-Plus has only one inspector to monitor complaints, compliance and safety concerns. (Samuel Rancourt/CBC)

Around 50 Handi-Transit users met at the Millennium Library in Winnipeg on Saturday to learn about changes to the ride service and provide feedback to make it better.

The city-run service is updating its computer software, which was implemented in 2004.

"The way it is right now it is not available and it is not used to the utmost," said Connie Newman, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres. Newman also sits on the Handi-Transit policy committee.

She criticized the existing software as being in "the Dark Ages."

About 2,000 rides are booked per day with the service. Around 700 of them are cancelled per day, some of them due to a lack of resources or riders who get fed up with long waits.

The new system will allow riders to book appointments online, as well as over the phone — and the city hopes to find a way to utilize slots that become available when passengers cancel their calls.

Under the current system, passengers have to schedule rides by 11 a.m. the day before the trip.

Other proposed changes to the system include:

  • Offering users a pickup window of 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Sending a call to people when a car has arrived.
  • Replacing the "priority system" by a "first arrived, first served" system.

​Handi-Transit is currently at the centre of an ombudsman complaint launched by Winnipeg's Independent Living Resource Centre against the City of Winnipeg in February 2016.

The complaint includes allegations of "unfair and biased policy," and bad driver etiquette, including an accusation that "a person who is blind was intentionally dropped off at a random location" after a disagreement with a driver.

Newman said she couldn't comment on the ombudsman complaint because she didn't know enough about it.

Long waits not uncommon, rider says

Katie Dycke, who has used Handi-Transit since 1985, takes a minimum of four Handi-Transit rides per week.

"I use it to go shopping and I use it for social events. Anywhere I want to go, that's what I use," she said Saturday at the library.

Dycke, who uses a wheelchair to get around, said she's waited as long as an hour and a half for rides, and waiting is not uncommon for passengers.

"Too often — maybe once or twice a week where I would have to wait, and sometimes I just cancel the ride when it's too unreasonable," Dycke said.

She said she's hopeful the new system provides a solution to the long waits, but she doesn't anticipate she'll use the online booking option.