Posts Tagged ‘Accessibility’
The headline comes from the Langley Advance. The good thing is that the report itself is actually available in the article page and for download from Scribd, so you can make your own judgement about what it says. Of course the press will always go with a negative for anything about TransLink – and I must admit that I have long been critical of the lack of service available to HandyDART users. What I think is remarkable about this survey is that it reports a generally positive tone in the responses.
The other thing that has to be noted is that very few of the people answering the survey were entirely reliant on the service.
Now the report does spell out where it was conducted – across BC but proportionately by population with properly weighted response rates. So this includes results from Metro Vancouver – where it is contracted out to an American operator (MVT) – and several of the larger BC Transit service areas.
And my impressions are not those of a user. At the time I worked for BC Transit and then TransLink (1997 – 2004) I was only too aware of a very high level of dissatisfaction. That was not based on an impartial survey but rather the constant pressure from advocates – and dissatisfied users. On social media and talking to people my own age, all I see are complaints. But if you think about it, that is also the case with transit service in general. The posts about friendly helpful bus drivers are few and far between – but the gripes when service is less than perfect are plentiful.
Some of the responses reported seem to be a bit obvious: “71% of respondents used the service to get to medical appointments.” Well that is because the age group of users is heavily weighted to those who no longer work or go to full time education. The supply of HandyDART trips is inadequate to meet every need so they have to be rationed, and those are the three for getting priority. Now, if you are a user who knows how to work the system you ensure that your doctor or clinic is located in or next to a mall so that you can quite reasonably combine trip purposes. But when you book it is for a medical appointment and not just to change your library books.
Of course in recent years many more services can be conducted on line – and as a senior myself I am well aware that the degree to which people of my age group have become adept at using computers. I no longer even own a cheque book and the number of times I actually need to go into a bank branch a year is less than one handful.
Buses in the City of Vancouver are now all accessible: back in 2004 they still looked like this:
One thing that has not changed is the level of dissatisfaction with taxis – which are used to supplement the inadequate supply of purpose built vans. This is not so much about the vehicles (though accessible taxis are often pre-empted by cruise ship passengers with lots of luggage) as the drivers, who still have a low level of understanding or tolerance for assisting people with disabilities. It is notable that those in Metro Vancouver get much lower ratings than those in other parts of BC.
I also still think that if we had an accessible, door to door, shared ride service – better than a bus, cheaper than a taxi – the overall level of service and customer satisfaction would increase and the need to rely on all those other types of service mentioned in that chart would decline. I hope that we recognize that this is a real need and one that ought to be met by the public sector, since Uber has clearly targeted this market as the one it thinks it will be able to monopolize and extort.
UPDATE February 10
HandyDART trips to increase by 85,000 in 2017 says Translink CEO: currently, HandyDART makes 1.2 million trips each year and has 23,000 people registered with the service.
Calling Vancouver “the most accessible city in North America” is not only unproven, it also sends the message that nothing more need be done – which is obviously not true. And this quite substantial critique for people who have to cope with what has not been done, or been done badly, demonstrates that the City of Vancouver has a long way to go. As does every other municipality.
And it also affects transit. This is Margaret Birrell of the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities talking about the Canada Line
“There are 19 things wrong with the design of the stations for the blind the visually impaired alone — and they are going to rectify that — but why wasn’t that thought about before? Why didn’t they hire a specialist in design?”
Or just talk to the people who have been working steadily to make SkyTrain accessible for the last twenty years.
The fact that we might be a bit better than Seattle or Kelowna is irrelavant. Accessibility is one of those thing that is either there or not – and it is very specific and needs a strong commitment with leadership from the top. It is not enough that Sam says “I just set policy”. He has a responsibility to ensure that policies are implemented effectively – not just taking credit for the things that seem to work better here than elsewhere.