As co-chair of the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, since last October I’ve been sitting on a task force set up by TransLink. Our mandate is to advise TransLink on HandyDART issues. The creation of this task force and the appointment of many individuals from the HandyDART community to it is another indicator of the positive working relationship that’s developed between TransLink and the HandyDART community since the arrival about a year ago of Kevin Desmond as TransLink’s new CEO.
For many years, up to and including 2016, HandyDART service levels have remained constant. Now, as part of the first phase of TransLink’s new plan, HandyDART service levels will finally be increased. TransLink has committed to raise HandyDART service levels by 15% during Phase 1, which runs three years, 2017-19 inclusive. This compares very favourably with the 10% increase in service levels for conventional public transit during the same period.
For once, HandyDART service levels will be increasing faster than the rest of the system. This is definitely needed as demand for HandyDART services is also increasing. Demographic changes already underway will mean a very significant increase in the number of seniors living in Metro Vancouver over the next decade. Also, more and more people with mobility restrictions are entering the workforce. And the increased accessibility of the built environment means more and more of these same people need services like HandyDART since they finally can access things like stores and malls that were formerly out of reach.
On Friday, February 10, I’ll be joining TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond at a press conference at the Scott Road SkyTrain station to announce this positive news.
The HandyDART Riders’ Alliance recognizes the fact that while the 15% increase is very good news, it’s only a down payment on what is needed. If TransLink is to address the ongoing, significant increase in HandyDART demand and make up for years of neglect, HandyDART service levels must be significantly increased again in Phase 2.
One of the ideas the task force is considering recommending to TransLink is a no-trip-turndown policy. This means as long as a HandyDART user calls in a minimum number of days in advance, his/her trip request would be accommodated even if it means putting more HandyDART buses on the road. The fact that such a policy is even being considered is another good sign of the progress being made due to the new partnership between TransLink and the HandyDART community.