HandyDart mini-buses still provide more than 95 per cent of custom transit trips with the remainder now handled by taxis.

HandyDart mini-buses still provide more than 95 per cent of custom transit trips with the remainder now handled by taxis.

Taxis helped clear HandyDart service jam

TransLink decision in spring of 2014 to use more taxis has fans, foes

TransLink’s move to dispatch more taxis to carry elderly and disabled users of the HandyDart system has helped clear a huge backlog of demand for the custom transit service.

Last May, TransLink earmarked an extra $1 million for taxi rides to relieve pressure on HandyDart after months of criticism from clients who said the oversubscribed service left them under virtual house arrest.

The number of denied trip requests had run well over 3,000 a month up until April, but plunged to less than 100 in the summer and fall.

“More people with disabilities are able to get to where they need to go,” said Merrilee Ashworth, TransLink manager of business development and contract services.

She said the 98 per cent reduction in denials as of November from a year earlier was in part due to other efficiency improvements besides the extra taxi funding.

“We believe our recent actions will continue benefits into 2015, and we will not see a return to the number of denials we experienced earlier in the year,” Ashworth said.

The increased use of taxis has been fought by unionized HandyDart drivers as well as some passengers who argue taxi drivers are not as well trained to meet their needs.

“I am strongly, strongly opposed to it,” said Burnaby HandyDart user Elizabeth McKellar, adding there are too many “horror stories” about poorly trained or inconsiderate cab drivers.

TransLink put some of the extra money into additional training for taxi drivers.

Its latest quarterly report credits that for a reduction in taxi service complaints, although they remain far higher than the complaint levels for HandyDart.

The report noted demand for HandyDart in 2014 was down compared to 2013, but said that may increase as former riders become aware that it’s now easier to get service.

The HandyDart Riders Alliance’ also argues most of the drop in denials is because of the introduction of looser trip search parameters in the spring, not from the boost in taxi service.

Eric Doherty said that makes it “extremely problematic” to compare old and new trip denial rates.

Ashworth said TransLink has not yet decided whether the additional funding for taxi rides will continue in 2015.

Jane Dyson, executive director of Disability Alliance B.C. (formerly the B.C. Coalition of Persons with Disabilities), supports the strategy of using taxis.

“We hope that they will continue to put that money into the taxi service,” she said.

Dyson said people who don’t want to take taxis don’t have to – HandyDart can still serve them – but taxis provide an efficient option for those who don’t mind them.

Even with an extra 30,000 rides offered by taxi this year, more than 95 per cent of the service is still being provided by conventional HandyDart mini-buses, which are only cost-effective compared to taxis if they can pick up multiple passengers on the same route.

She also applauded TransLink’s creation of a new standby system – passengers whose trip request is initially denied can go on a wait list in case of cancellations.

Dyson said ride-sharing app Uber’s potential arrival in Metro Vancouver threatens to disrupt the existing taxi service that supports the HandyDart system.

“The taxi industry over the last two or three years has gone to great lengths to try and improve the service, particularly for people with disabilities and seniors,” Dyson said.

“Our organization is concerned about Uber. It risks undermining the important work that the community and the (taxi) industry have done together.”

 

Transit use down in 2014

Transit ridership is down from 2013 levels, and TransLink collected $3.2 million or 0.9 per cent less in the first nine months of 2014 as a result.

According to TransLink third quarter report, the fare increase imposed in early 2013 appears to have had a longer lasting impact on ridership than expected.

It notes revenue was also down in part due to the free transit day on B.C. Day to make up for SkyTrain shutdowns in July, and because of the three-week delay of the new school year due to the teachers strike.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Pitt Meadows Art Gallery will be running a photography exhibition through February and March.
Pitt Meadows Art Gallery featuring photography

Pros and amateurs submitted their images on a variety of themes

Fraser Health declares outbreak over at Ridge Meadows Hospital. (Google Maps)
Outbreak at Ridge Meadows Hospital declared over

The outbreak was announced at the end of December in an inpatient rehab unit at Maple Ridge hospital

The group opposing CP Rail’s proposed logistics park in Pitt Meadows has gathered signs and other materials to rally opposition. (Special to The News)
STOPCPRAIL group would stop coming rail projects in Pitt Meadows

Council wants to proceed with Harris Road underpass

Maple Ridge’s Lynda Summers took this trio in early January 2021. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)
SHARE: Horses in January

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Victor Okunev found this abandoned floating dock on the shores of Pitt Lake. (Facebook)
Nature lover takes it upon himself to clean up Styrofoam mess along Pitt Lake

“If you see trash – pick it up!” says Port Moody’s Victor Okunev

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment Mission, has break-out year

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Giants defenceman Bowen Byram has recorded his first NHL career point (Rob Wilton/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants Bowen Byram records first NHL career point with Colorado Avalanche

Player with Langley-based WHL franchise assisted on goal against the Ducks

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Surrey Fire Service responded to a fire in the industrial area of 192nd street and 54th Avenue early Saturday morning (Jan. 23, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews respond to fire in industrial area

Fire happened early Saturday morning

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

Most Read