‘Appalling’ HandyDART service in Maple Ridge

Parents of children with special needs start petition

(From left) David Moore

(From left) David Moore

People who use HandyDART in Maple Ridge are hoping a petition will resolve complaints they’ve been voicing for the past year.

Spearheaded by parents with special needs children who use the door-to-door service almost daily, the petition says HandyDART has become an “appalling” service in Maple Ridge.

Elizabeth Saparamadu’s son Kithsen uses HandyDART to get to his job at Greenwood Creations, a wood workshop operated by the Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living.

Work begins at 8:30 a.m., but Saparamadu says Kit is often stuck on the bus for an hour. One Tuesday, an eight-kilometre trip from his house to his job on Maple Crescent took an hour and a half.

Kit’s condition affects his circulation, causing his legs to fall asleep, so when the bus finally reaches its destination and Kit tries to get up, he falls over.

Saparamadu said she has called HandyDART’s customer service line repeatedly, but little has been done to change things.

Others complain that HandyDART has failed to pick up their children on several occasions, has dropped them off at destinations and left them unattended despite notes on file, informing drivers that the client should never be left alone. More claim rides have been cancelled without the clients being informed.

Evelyn Wason’s son David, who has Down’s Syndrome and can’t speak, has been left unattended after being dropped off by HandyDART.

She blames the deal TransLink signed with HandyDART in 2008 for causing much of the problems.

The $113-million, three-year deal with MVT Canadian Bus Inc. replaced an old patchwork system in which seven different service providers operated in eight different zones.

The new deal created a three-zone system and promised to be more seamless, with fewer transfers for clients.

Wason said it now takes up to an hour to get through to the customer service line.

“When it was local, we could get through and find out where the bus was,” she added.

Cathy Ballard, the customer service manager for HandyDART, encouraged riders to call in their concerns.

From January to July 6, HandyDART provided 26,095 rides in Maple Ridge and fielded 33 complaints.

“We provide the best service that we can possibly provide with the limitations that we have,” said Ballard.

She suggested clients be more specific about the changes they want to see and where the service is lagging.

“I’d like to find out where and how I can help them. Certainly, that’s what we are here for.”

Petition

To sign the petition, copies are available at the Ridge Meadows Seniors’ Centre, 12150 – 224th Street and the Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living, 11641 – 224th Street.