Many of you will be unaware of the fact that TransLink’s HandyDART service is not operated by TransLink. Instead, this very important shared ride service for people with cognitive and physical disabilities is contracted out to a third party — ultimately, an American, for-profit company called MVT. (The parent company of MVT Canadian Bus Inc., which operates HandyDART, is American-owned MV Transportation based in Dallas, Texas.)
Many of us in the HandyDART community have been asking for years that TransLink end this practice and bring HandyDART in-house. A report presented to the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation last week is also requesting the same thing.
By comparison, most of our transit operations are wholly owned subsidiaries of TransLink, including Coast Mountain Bus Company, which operates the public bus system. If TransLink’s conventional public transit can be operated as wholly owned subsidiaries, then why not HandyDART?
This would mean that all of the profit MVT currently makes operating HandyDART would be re-invested in higher levels of service. Currently, HandyDART users experience long wait times, trip denials and an overall decline in service while millions of dollars a year leave Metro Vancouver and flow south of the border to Texas-based MVT.
A number of years ago I helped co-found the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, an advocacy group made up of HandyDART users. We have been lobbying hard to bring about a change in the way HandyDART services are delivered, namely that TransLink bring HandyDART in-house.
A number of months ago TransLink initiated a Request for Proposal seeking bids for a new multi-year contract for HandyDART. In December, the results of the RFP are scheduled be announced. But over the past few weeks, the HRA has been lobbying hard asking TransLink to abandon the RFP process.
The HRA would also like to see the current TransLink board of directors replaced with a more accountable board. For many years, TransLink’s directors were appointed by Metro Vancouver. That way all municipalities had input into the governance structure at TransLink. But the provincial Liberals did away with this approach and took over the appointment of the TransLink board. The HRA would like to see the current governance model replaced with a model that is receptive and accountable to regional input.
It’s critical that our new provincial NDP government directs TransLink to bring HandyDART in-house. Let’s also hope that the NDP follows through on its promise to do away with the provincially appointed board of directors, and return TransLink to regional control.
We need you! At this critical time, we urge you to write your mayor and MLA urging them to bring HandyDART in-house. Connect with us through the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance website, Facebook page, and Twitter to support our efforts and learn more.