Nova Scotia

Access-A-Bus booking system needs fixing, says Halifax woman

A Halifax woman with a disability says her frustrations are growing with the Access-A-Bus program in HRM.

'Since the end of summer I have found it near impossible to get a ride to and from my appointment'

Halifax's Erin Saari is frustrated with the booking system for Halifax Transit's Access-A-Bus. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

A  Halifax woman with a spinal cord injury says her frustrations are growing with Halifax Transit's Access-A-Bus program.

Erin Saari made her concerns public last week by posting them online.

"I'm a quadriplegic and attend outpatient physiotherapy at the Nova Scotia rehab centre, weekly," Saari wrote in a post on her Facebook and Instagram accounts. "This week, once again, I will be unable to get there.

"The Access-a-bus usually takes me there but since the end of summer I have found it near impossible to get a ride to and from my appointment."

In an interview at her apartment in Clayton Park, Saari said a booking for Access-A-Bus has to made seven days in advance.

Injured two years ago

She suffered her injury more than two years ago when she dove into a pool and struck her head.

She now uses a wheelchair and has gone through intensive rehab since then.

But the advance-booking system for the service isn't working for her.

"They ask you to call at 7 a.m. so I wake up early and call the line, but it's always busy," said Saari, a former firefighter in B.C. who moved to Nova Scotia three years ago.

"When I do finally get through I'll usually get a ride there, but it's unsure whether I will get a ride back or not."

Saari says that's not good enough because she needs to be able to confirm her physiotherapy appointments in order for her to continue her progression.

Prior to her accident she was athletic and played on an all-female tackle football team.

Physical condition has improved

With the help of physiotherapy, her physical condition has improved to the point where she was able to take small steps on her own. Now she can use a walker and specialized crutches.

But the lack of flexibility in the booking system for the bus leaves her frustrated.

"I need to know if I'm going to be able to make it to my appointments," she said. "I'd like to let my physiotherapist know ahead of time whether I'm going to make it or not."

Saari is also now training to become a wheelchair racer. To do that she needs transportation to the Canada Games Centre.

While she has made great progress she still needs help opening the front doors of her apartment building.

Saari, a former firefighter in B.C., is taking on para-athletics and wants to know she can count on a ride to and from the Canada Games Centre. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

She can get down the ramp at her building, but she can't get back up on her own.

Saari says the Access-A-Bus drivers have been wonderful to her but she says overall the system needs some tweaks.

"I really do enjoy using this service but it's flawed and we need to fix it."

Changes coming

Halifax Transit is aware of Saari's complaint.

They say changes will soon be made to allow more flexibility in booking rides. The advance-booking time will be reduced.

"I think our customers will see, in the next couple of months, being able to reduce that window dramatically," said Mike Spicer, Halifax Transit's operations manager. "We are working on trying to make our service more spontaneous and that's one of the tasks we will be working on right away."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.

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