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HandyDART needs fixing, delegates tell TransLink board

Advocate says it’s ‘about accessibility and inclusion for all riders’
HandyDART is a door-to-door shared ride service operated by TransLink. (Photo:

TransLink’s HandyDART service needs improvement.

That’s what the board of directors heard from delegates on March 27, during their first quarterly meeting for 2024.

HandyDART is a door-to-door, shared-ride service for those not able to access public transit without assistance.

Eric Doherty, a transportation planning consultant, noted that TransLink provided 4.1 HandyDART trips per person over age 65 in 2008, 3.5 in 2013 and 2.4 in 2023.

“In other words, in 2023 TransLink provided 30 per cent less HandyDART service per senior than in 2013 and 40 per cent less in 2008,” he told the board.

“TransLink is unable to provide adequate HandyDART service because the private contractors operating HandyDART over the last several years have been unable to attract and retain enough staff,” Doherty said.

READ ALSO: TransLink board approves fare hike, property tax increase for 2024

Ron Bergen, an “accessibility inclusion advocate” who has used HandyDART, and is a member of the Save Our HandyDART! coalition, encouraged the board to go on ride-alongs to “see the difference, first hand, between the HandyDART service and the taxi service.”

TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn said HandyDART’s delivery model is being reviewed this year with “robust” consultation. He added that now is the time to do it given “trends that we’re seeing in the custom transit industry,” and that the contract between TransLink and its provider is up in 2026.

“It is a great opportunity to take a deeper look at how we can better deliver for our HandyDART users,” Quinn said.

Bergen “strongly” urged the board to “ensure the review is transparent and to incorporate the riders and workers input thoroughly, not simply in a one-off fashion from a limited group of riders.

“By listening to the riders and workers throughout this process you as a board will make sure you’re getting the complete story,” he said. “The performance summaries of HandyDART service often do not capture problems that riders face every day.”

Bergen told the board it’s “incredibly common” to book a ride for a set time, “only to receive a phone call from HandyDART asking for approval to change the pickup time. If the rider declines to do this, we may not get a ride at all.”

He said HandyDART must not be only about dollars and cents, but also doing what’s right by seniors and disabled people who need the service.

“We all deserve a quality of life and choices and to me it’s about accessibility and inclusion for all riders,” Bergen said.

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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