HandyDART Contractor Hiding Soaring Trip Denials:
Riders’ group hopeful mayors will include HandyDART increase in referendum package
For immediate release –Wednesday May 21, 2014
Internal company documents shared with the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance by unionized workers show that the company operating HandyDART service in Metro Vancouver has changed accounting procedures to disguise deteriorating service to people with disabilities and seniors.
“This is about real people being denied rides to essential medical appointments and family visits” says HandyDART Riders’ Alliance spokesperson Elizabeth McKellar. “We need more HandyDART vans on the road, not accounting tricks to sweep the crisis under the carpet.”
The procedural changes widen the trip window from one hour to two, and mean a denial will not be recorded if a trip outside the original one hour window does not work for the rider, even if no trip is actually available in the wider window.
When elected mayors and councillors sat on the TransLink Board, they increased HandyDART service hours by about 5% per year to keep up with demand. But after the provincial government imposed an appointed board in 2008, HandyDART service hours were frozen and HandyDART trip denials soared.
Previous freedom of information requests show that people with disabilities and seniors were denied HandyDART service over 42,000 times in 2013, an eight-fold increase in four years. There were 5,075 HandyDART denials in 2009 and 42,418 in 2013.
“We are hopeful that the mayors will include a substantial and ongoing increase in HandyDART service in the transit referendum package they are preparing” says HandyDART Riders’ Alliance spokesperson and former Vancouver City Councillor Tim Louis. “Seniors and people with disabilities won’t be mobilizing to get the ‘yes’ vote out in the transit referendum if HandyDART is short changed; and all politicians understand the importance of the seniors vote.”
The HandyDART Riders’ Alliance says that three 80,000 hour increases, each costing about $7 million or 0.5% of TransLink’s budget to operate, is needed to catch up after five years without an increase. After that, smaller regular increases will be needed to keep up with growing demand linked to our growing population of older seniors.
The provincial government has delayed transit improvements, including HandyDART service increases, pending a transit funding referendum likely to be held in June 2015.
“The mayors will be proposing HandyDART service levels, which the provincial government will need to approve” says ATU local 1724 President Bob Chitrenky. “I’m optimistic that the mayors will move to deal with this crisis so we can provide better service, they seem to understand that creative accounting is not a solution.”
HandyDART is a door-to-door transit service for people with disabilities and older seniors who cannot use the regular transit system for at least some trips. MVT Canadian Bus is the contractor for HandyDART service in Metro Vancouver.
The HandyDART Riders’ Alliance and Amalgamated Transit Union local 1724 are co-sponsoring a public forum, The Future of HandyDART Saturday May 24, 2014 – 11am to 1pm at Surrey City Centre Library, 10350 University Drive Surrey
(350m / 5min from Surrey Centre SkyTrain Station). Spokespeople and HandyDART riders will be available for interviews between 10:30 & 11 and after the forum.
For more information please contact:
Elizabeth McKellar HandyDART Riders’ Alliance Co-coordinator 604 444 9289
Tim Louis, HandyDART Riders’ Alliance Co-coordinator 604 732 7678