TransLink eyes HandyDart shakeup (with video)

Review could result in replacement of U.S. contractor MVT Canadian Bus in 2017




TransLink will consider reforms to HandyDart service in response to recurring rider complaints and that could lead to a decision to replace the current U.S.-based contractor in 2017.

That’s when TransLink’s contract with MVT Canadian Bus Ltd. expires but outgoing board chair Barry Forbes said talks can start next year, along with a review to determine how better to serve passengers with disabilities who can’t use the regular transit system.

“We are concerned,” Forbes said after an open board meeting where TransLink directors heard several users complain the door-to-door custom transit service is inadequate and difficult to use.

Forbes promised TransLink will reach out to users to “figure out how we can adjust the system to more adequately and accurately – and humanely – meet their needs.”

Many activist users and unionized drivers have been openly at war with MVT for years and they repeated their calls for the private for-profit contractor to be abandoned in favour of a service run directly by TransLink or a non-profit.

“We all know there will be an increased demand for HandyDart service in the future,” said Bob Chitrenky, president of the drivers’ union, arguing profits that now go to MVT’s U.S. parent should instead be kept here to build a more sustainable service.

HandyDart’s budget would have increased had the transit sales tax referendum passed earlier this year, but it remains effectively frozen.

Chitrenky warned that budget restraint measures making it harder to qualify for HandyDart or moving to longer pickup time windows “may get less people riding but it’s not the answer to service.”

HandyDart users at the meeting carried placards with slogans like “people before profit” and “stop the abuse.”

Long waits and lack of availability of HandyDart vans has been a steady complaint of riders, as well as inflexibility of dispatchers.

“Accommodation is not in their dictionary,” said terminally ill disabled user Bet Tuason. “To MVT, it’s a foreign language.”

TransLink will consider the option of ending contracting out and making the service a direct TransLink function “as well as all other options,” Forbes said.

He indicated the aim will be not just to decide who should run the service, but how it might change.

“Part of the review that will be underway in 2016 is looking at the ways we might provide service in the future – are there other ways, better ways that aren’t presently available or that we’re not presently offering.”

Forbes defended some of the steps taken in recent years, saying the recent shift to use taxis for a portion of trips sharply cut the number of unfilled trip requests.

Some advocates have supported the supplemental use of taxis, but HandyDart users who spoke out Wednesday said they are unacceptable and ill-suited to transport vulnerable clients.

HandyDart user Bet Tuason speaking to the TransLink board Tuesday.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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

Just Posted

Guildford’s Winter Festival raises nearly $7K for Surrey Memorial Hospital

Funds raised through two weekends of skate rentals, on-site donations

Woman in Fraser Health region confirmed as sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Court awards Surrey Costco shopping cart collector $583K after car pins him

Kurtis Ryan Burdeniuk, 22, was retrieving carts when driver backed into him in the parking lot, pinning him

Royal Canadian circus coming back to Cloverdale

June dates for rebranded circus in year of expansion into U.S.

Committee that replaced Surrey’s Public Safety Committee seven months ago has never met

Surrey mayor dissolved safety committee in July 2019, replaced it with Interim Police Transition Advisory Committee

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, calls for end to blockades

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

Woman missing out of downtown Maple Ridge

Police seek public’s help locating Atefeh Jadidian

Petition seeks to remove local police department from Lindsay Buziak murder case

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

‘Chain reaction pile up’ closes southbound traffic on Coquihalla Highway

Black Press Media has reached out to RCMP, paramedics for details

Exploding enrolment prompts opening of second TWU campus in Richmond

Langley’s faith-based Trinity Western University opens a second campus in Richmond

Fraser Valley seniors’ home residents go without meds for a night due to staff shortage

Residents speak out about staff shortages that are leading to serious safety concerns

Most Read