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City of Maple Ridge joins call to fix HandyDART

Critics say service has become too reliant on taxis
The City of Maple Ridge has joined a call to fix HandyDART service. (Black Press files)

The City of Maple Ridge is joining a group of advocates calling for improved HandyDART service, by making it a subsidiary of TransLink.

Councillors agreed on April 23 that the city be a signatory to an open letter to Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming, and Minister of State for Transit Dan Coulter, calling for improvements to the service for passengers with physical or cognitive disabilities. Maple Ridge was asked to join on behalf of residents who rely on the service.

A group of unions, disability advocates, and municipalities formed to voice concerns over service levels in the Metro Vancouver HandyDART system, and what it calls a “worsening crisis.”

Mayor Dan Ruimy said he has heard concerns from residents “time and time again.”

“It’s timely, and I think it’s important to at least try to understand what the challenges are, and where we stand, because there are a lot of folks who rely on HandyDART to get to doctors appointments, clinics and so on…” said Ruimy.

Coun. Korleen Carreras also voiced her support, saying she has heard complaints about the increased use of taxis, despite some not being outfitted for “folks with mobility challenges.” Carreras noted a lot of cities and mayors have signed on to the letter.

Coun. Jenny Tan said Maple Ridge is in dire need of more transit investment overall, and HandyDART users face the most barriers in accessing transit.

“It’s well incumbent on us, and I’m very excited to support this,” said Tan.

“HandyDART is crucial infrastructure for some of Metro Vancouver’s most vulnerable populations, but for years now it has been unable to provide adequate service levels that meet demand,” reads the letter to the province.

It says failures in the service means riders are stranded “without any safe, reliable means of getting to kidney dialysis appointments, cancer treatments, adult daycare facilities, and other essential services. It also means social isolation for many HandyDART riders.”

The letter asserts that HandyDART’s private contractors have not been able to attract and retain enough staff. The recommended solution is for HandyDART to be brought “in house” as a subsidiary of TransLink.

It also notes that TransLink’s solution has been to rely on taxis.

A TransLink spokesperson offered a counterpoint.

“TransLink is committed to ensuring quality service is delivered to HandyDART customers. In 2023, demand for the service was met as 99.6% of all trips that were requested by HandyDART customers were delivered. Customer satisfaction scores for HandyDART service also remains high, at 8.6 out of 10 in 2023,” said the spokesperson.

“TransLink is constantly looking to ensure the service is improving. As part of those efforts, we are conducting a full review of HandyDART operations to see how the service should operate in the future, which will include feedback from HandyDART customers and employees.”

When HandyDARTs are unavailable, providing supplemental taxi services to customers at no additional charge helps ensure customers can get where they need to go, he added. Without supplemental taxis last year more than 280,000 trips would have been refused for customers.

READ ALSO: $300M TransLink boost aimed at fixing transit issues in B.C. Lower Mainland

Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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