The TransLink Mayors’ Council and board has met to review TransLink’s 10-year plan. The plan asserts that “everyone who lives, works, and plays here, enjoys a broad range of quality transportation choices.”
That simply isn’t true for many lower-income seniors and people with disabilities. TransLink provided 22 per cent less HandyDART service per senior in 2019 than in 2008, before COVID forced many HandyDART riders into self isolation.
This year the oldest baby boomers turn 77, and disability increases greatly after age 70. Providing the services older seniors need over the next decade will be a defining social and political challenge. HandyDART service must increase to catch up and keep up with our aging population.
The climate crisis is another crucial challenge, and the transit improvements seniors and people with disabilities need are also essential climate solutions.
With provincial, federal, and regional funds, BC Transit Victoria is building a new permanent HandyDART centre to support a 100 per cent electric HandyDART fleet. In contrast, TransLink has excluded HandyDART from its Low Carbon Fleet Transition Plan.
Metro Vancouver’s mayors must push for federal and provincial funding for permanent operations centres with charging stations for electric HandyDART vehicles. This would shift a significant expense from TransLink’s operating budget (supported by municipal property taxes and fares) to a capital expense largely covered with federal and provincial funds. The move to quiet and clean electric vehicles would benefit HandyDART riders and TransLink’s bottom line.
TransLink has contracted out management of HandyDART to successive bidders. This costs more, as companies siphon off a percentage to profits. The chaos of changing management also makes it hard to retain experienced employees, maintain positive changes that benefit service, and makes switching to electric vehicles much harder. Bringing HandyDART in-house would alleviate all these problems.
Those who require HandyDART deserve stability, safe service, and clean electric vehicles.
Our mayors must show leadership in providing quality transportation choices for all and in responding to the climate crisis.
ATU local 1724 represents the workers with the paratransit service known as HandyDART in Metro Vancouver.
Mark Beeching, ATU local 1724 president/business agent
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