Nova Scotia

After 71 years, lack of funds forces Halifax bus service for veterans to end

Callow Wheelchair Buses provides transportation for veterans living at the Camp Hill hospital, people with disabilities and nursing home residents with mobility challenges.

Non-profit Walter Callow bus service also served nursing home residents, people with disabilities

It's the end of the road for the Walter Callow bus service, pictured here in 2007. (CBC)

A non-profit Halifax bus service that has served veterans and people with disabilities for seven decades, is ceasing operations at the end of the month due to a lack of financial resources.

Callow Wheelchair Buses has been in operation since 1947 when it was founded by Walter Callow, a Halifax humanitarian and veteran who was blind and used a wheelchair.

It provides bus service for veterans living at the Camp Hill hospital, where Callow used to reside. It also offers transportation for people with disabilities and nursing home residents with mobility challenges — offering rides to hockey games and trips to the legion, among other stops.

"I think it will be quite a change for these people because this is the only way they get out into the community," said Rosemarie Leblanc, who has worked as a secretary for Callow Wheelchair Buses for more than 38 years.

The service was in operation 25 days a month, Leblanc told CBC Radio's Mainstreet on Wednesday.

The Walter Callow bus service has been in Halifax for 71 years. (CBC)

Ruth Strubank, executive director of the Nova Scotia Association for Community Living, said she was disappointed to learn the bus service was ceasing operations.

"There's a lot of social isolation and exclusion in our community, so having the chance to get on the bus, go somewhere that you might not easily be able to go to with peers, with friends, with people that are like or not like you is huge," Strubank, whose organization supports people with intellectual disabilities, told Mainstreet.

"Bus service, period, in the province is really not very supportive. Again, a barrier for people with intellectual disabilities and disabilities."

Limited options

Halifax Transit's Access-A-Bus system —​ a door-to-door, shared-ride service for people with physical or intellectual disabilities — has been criticized by some users as too inflexible because it requires trips to be booked seven days in advance.

However, the municipality's head of transit operations said Tuesday a new same-day booking system — scheduling and taking a ride on the same day — should be ready by early next year.

In the meantime, advocates for people with disabilities have called on the city to consider using taxis to help pick up the slack from Access-A-Bus.  

There are just 15 accessible taxis on the road in the Halifax area. That's a major drop from 2015, when there were 47 in operation.

With files from Carsten Knox and CBC Radio's Mainstreet

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