Transit Plus rider wants changes to 'absolutely ludicrous' rule on stop locations
Winnipeg's public transit for people with disabilities limits drop-offs to within 500 metres of bus stops
"Close enough" isn't a good enough approach when it comes to Winnipeg's public transportation system for people with physical disabilities, says a Transit Plus user.
Last week, 76-year-old Maureen Anderson, who uses the city's Transit Plus service — formerly Handi-Transit — was told the transit service couldn't take her to the destination she'd requested, and instead would drop her off at the nearest bus stop.
"I said, 'What are you talking about? I've been there before,'" Anderson said. "[The dispatcher] said, 'not anymore, you're not.'"
Anderson has fibromyalgia, a disorder that can cause pain and fatigue, and she uses a walker to get around. She hadn't used Transit Plus in a while, but called last Thursday to book a ride to her friend's house — a location Transit Plus had taken her to before.
That's when she was told Transit Plus could now only take her to the nearest regular transit system bus stop, which is about 500 metres away from where her friend lives.
The Transit Plus employee she spoke to suggested she call a cab to meet her at the bus stop, Anderson says, telling her that's what some other clients are doing.
Anderson wasn't happy.
"Matter of fact, I was pissed off," she said. "This is a house just off Grant [Avenue]. It's not like they're in the boonies."
It's not the first time she's had problems with the service, she said.
Three years ago, Anderson said she had to miss the funeral of a close friend's mother because Transit Plus, known then as Handi-Transit, couldn't take her to the venue.
"The bus stop was a block-and-a-half from the funeral parlour," she said. "So I couldn't go."
Even something as simple as going to see a movie can be out of the question, she said, because the service will only make drop-offs at a particular door at every mall — which could be at the opposite end of the mall from the theatre.
Abolish 500-metre rule: ombudsman report
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg directed CBC News to a report that went to the city's public works committee in 2018.
The report says the Transit Plus service area is defined as "the area no more than 500 metres (measured as the 'crow flies') from an established fixed service bus route."
That report also says council adopted the recommendations of a 1994 city task force commissioned to review Handi-Transit issues.
"One of the challenges of the task force was to define a 'reasonably equivalent' parallel public transportation service for persons with physical disabilities unable to utilize the regular transit service of the day," the report says.
"It was agreed that one of the components of 'reasonably equivalent' is that the service area for Handi-Transit should be the same as the regular transit system given the purpose of Handi-Transit service is to accommodate those unable to use the regular 'fixed route' transit service."
A report from the Manitoba ombudsman released in January 2019 specifically recommended the city abolish the 500-metre rule "and provide service either within established city limits or within 1,000 metres of conventional bus stops."
A city spokesperson said the 500-metre rule is "currently being reviewed as part of the Winnipeg Transit master plan, which is scheduled to make recommendations about the future of the city's entire transit system in spring 2020.
It's a system Anderson said needs to change, and she's worried the restrictions will further isolate people with disabilities who are already often stuck at home.
"I want them to stand up and start doing something. This is absolutely ludicrous," she said. "What about the younger people that are also maybe suffering from depression and anxiety, and then they come up against this?"
Anderson said most people who use Transit Plus rely on it, because other options are too expensive. After Thursday's incident, she said she made some calls to private transportation companies in the city and found the one-way trip would range from $48 to upwards of $80.
She wants to see something change for people who use Transit Plus to get around.
"I'm tired of it."
With files from Marina von Stackelberg