Posts Tagged ‘HandyDART’
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.
Sorry about the shouty headline: the UVic Press Release uses all caps and my WP editor lacks a ‘change case’ key. This actually came to me from a tweet. You do follow me on twitter don’t you? There’s now a handy widget over there on the top right if you need it. Some of the tweets do get repeated by facebook, but not many of the retweets. And quite a lot of stuff that I see does not get blogged these days, especially since Twitter changed the way retweets are done that now can include commentary. Today, for the first time, I was able to retweet something with the terse comment “Horseshit!” – something, I now realize, I have wanted to do for a long time.
Climate research – and the long list of projects – is all very worthy, but I am afraid I am very much unimpressed. And I am also a bit inspired by a post in the Tyee which sets out the progressive manifesto 0f what needs to be done once we have got rid of Stephen Harper. So while the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) is doing its five year research project here are some things that we need to be doing right away. That is because action on climate change is now urgent. Like The Man said “We don’t have time for a meeting with the Flat Earth Society“. We do actually know what needs to be done and, sadly, these things seem to have slipped through the PICS net.
First note that they are hung up on gee whiz technology. We don’t actually need any of that. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that we know about, familiar technologies and techniques that are held back simply by a combination of out of date policies and inertia. BC Transit was forced to waste money on hydrogen buses (whatever happened to them? I asked BCT but they have yet to reply) when we knew plenty about trolleybuses and extended range hybrid dual powered buses too. Nothing was learned from that five year demonstration project other than it is possible to truck hydrogen across the continent and convince yourself that you are helping the environment.
Transportation and the Built Environment are treated in the research list as two separate programmes. I wonder if the researchers will talk to each other over lunch sometimes? Because we all know that land use and transportation are two sides of the same coin. The best transportation plan is a good land use plan. The best way to save energy from transportation is to cut the need to make motorised trips. Community Energy Planning should have become mandatory fifteen years ago, but Glen Clark shut down the Energy Efficiency Branch of MEMPR – and forgot all about the BC Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program. Most of the advances that we are going to see in the field of transportation will come from a combination of information technology and deregulation. (See Bridj below) There’s a great deal we can do to make better use of what we have but the rules and regs get in the way. Like bike helmets, for instance. By the way did you know that the researchers who did the study that supports BC’s current helmet law have themselves repudiated that study? Protected bike lanes work better to both save lives and encourage bike use – and they are amazingly simple to introduce. As The Lady said, if you want to see change, do it quickly. The Burrard Bridge case is as convincing as any that chaos will not ensue.
Most of the change we need will start happening once we stop subsidizing fossil fuels. Indeed it is quite remarkable how much change is already under way, despite billions of dollars propping up what will soon be a dying industry. The tar sands are already uneconomic, and unnecessary, just as LNG export is a really stupid proposition in the present market. So stop throwing money at oil and gas, and you not only free up some fiscal headroom for sensible policies, but you also give the market the sort of signals it would have got if you had stuck to your guns over carbon tax. Ditch revenue neutral as a policy objective there, keep jacking up the carbon price and spend the proceeds on public transportation – local transit and high speed electric trains for longer distances. Electrify the main corridors straight away (Toronto – Ottawa – Montreal, Edmonton – Calgary) and then start building new high speed railways as cancelling freeway expansions permit. Maybe by then the Americans will have started to catch up with the rest of the world, and we can talk about Vancouver – Seattle – Portland.
What I do see as problematic is that we will probably be better at civilizing the suburbs than getting real change in urban areas, where many more people live in multifamily buildings. It’s pretty easy to put up your own solar panel, and put both a Tesla car and a home battery in your own garage. If you can afford it. It is going to be much harder to get equivalent changes in condos, though co-ops seem to be doing better with things like bike storage. Public housing, of course, has to go back on the agenda. It is not enough to make the existing housing stock more efficient when so much of it is out of range of the middle class, let alone the people who struggle on unlivable wages and such welfare assistance as survives. I do not see any work being done by PICS on environmental justice. But make no mistake, we do have to tackle the issue of the lack of jobs in range of affordable housing in transit deprived areas. We do need to think about how our energy policies can be used to create better employment prospects for our own population rather than simply looking to exploit export markets for barely transformed raw materials. “Researchers will also identify opportunities to substitute timber products for carbon-intensive steel, concrete or plastics used in many sectors, including the building industry.” Start first by banning the export of raw logs to ensure that there will be some local industry to produce these wonderful things.
I am really against spending so much on building technologies – where the potential savings in fossil fuels in BC are limited – when you have no plan to tackle the major user of liquid fuels – personal transportation. Again, we know that old fashioned ideas like trolleybuses, trams and interurbans – even diesel buses, for goodness sake – produce far less ghg per passenger kilometre than single occupant internal combustion engine cars and trucks. So we really do not need any more research on “the distribution potential of alternative fuels including compressed (CNG), liquefied (LNG) and renewable (RNG) natural gas.” Even if every car could be electric, zero emission at a wave of a magic wand we would still have all the present problems of traffic, road deaths and urban sprawl. There is even less saving in ghg in having a carbon zero or even positive reduction in CO2 building if it is stuck out in the middle of nowhere – and everybody is driving to and from it! On the other hand, increasing bus service frequency and reliability – mostly by paint on the streets – is a well established technique for increasing transit use – and it doesn’t all come from cannibalising walking and cycling. Much of it comes from unpaid chauffeuring.
The article on Bridj really got me thinking. First note that this service is actually delivering something slower in downtown DC than can be achieved on a bike. But then this guy is also wasting time “20 minutes to shower and change” after his ride. Imagine someone from Copenhagen or Amsterdam writing that. Bridj could be a serious challenge to transit – much more than Uber and Lyft which are aimed at the taxi market. Or it could be a very useful supplement, and work much better than Community Shuttle service does in the suburbs. Indeed, when you look at how it works, isn’t that a good description of what HandyDART was supposed to do? And how about we simply abandon (once again) the old “separate but equal” philosophy, and instead of having a segregated service for people with disabilities – which actually does not work very well at all – but have a service which anyone can use. But is cheaper to deliver because you separate out the paying for it from using it. $5 for a ride on a profit making service? If the math is right, that is cheaper than most Community Shuttles, and much less than HandyDART. The driver, of course, would continue to help those who need assistance for door to door movement. As I have always said, in the low density areas (which includes most of Vancouver south of 12th Avenue) we need something better than a bus but cheaper than a taxi. Bridj isn’t going to attract people who can use really good transit. But then we don’t actually have that in much of the region, and it is not at all clear that we will turn out to be ready to pay for more of that yet. Oh, and before I forget, we would also need to sort out a much more equitable transit tariff, based on ability to pay, but that is a subject for another day.
Press Release received from Eric Doherty via Twitter
Seniors vote needed for transit referendum win
For immediate release –Thursday February 27, 2014
Data obtained through freedom of information requests shows that people with disabilities and seniors were denied HandyDART service over 42,000 times in 2013, an eight-fold increase in four years. There were 5,075 HandyDART denials in 2009, 18,188 in 2011, 37,690 in 2012 and 42,418 in 2013.
“Other folks in society are sentenced to house arrest for committing a crime,” says HandyDART Riders Committee spokesperson and former Vancouver City Councillor Tim Louis. “We have committed no crime and yet are sentenced to house arrest when demand for rides outstrips capacity to provide rides because politicians won’t make transit funding a priority.”
HandyDART service was increased by about 5% annually to meet growing demand between 2002 and 2008. However, 2013 service hours were slightly lower than in 2008.
“HandyDART service levels have been frozen for five years while the population of older seniors and people with disabilities has grown dramatically” says transportation planner Eric Doherty the author of the 2013 report Metro Vancouver’s Aging Population and the Need for Improved HandyDART Service. “The number of people over 70 in Metro Vancouver will increase by 40% in the next decade.”
The HandyDART Riders’ Alliance says that three 80,000 hour increases, each costing about $7 million or 0.5% of TransLink’s present budget to operate, is needed to catch up after five years without an increase. After that, smaller regular increases will be needed to keep up with growing demand.
The provincial government has delayed transit improvements, including HandyDART service increases, pending a transit funding referendum likely to be held in June 2015. The TransLink Mayors council will apparently be setting the HandyDART service levels to be voted on, although the provincial government has not released details of promised governance changes.
HandyDART is a door-to-door transit service for people with disabilities and older seniors who cannot use the regular transit system for at least some trips.
“Seniors like me vote. The transit funding referendum likely won’t pass unless we can vote to meet the needs of an aging population, including better HandyDART service” says Elsie Dean, a HandyDART Riders’ Alliance member. “It is time to make the investments in public transit, including HandyDART, needed to make Metro Vancouver a livable and age friendly region.”
The newly-formed HandyDART Riders’ Alliance is open to HandyDART riders and allies. The group will be holding their first public meeting and electing board members on Saturday March 1st 1:30 to 3:30 at the 411 Seniors Centre, #704-333 Terminal Ave. Vancouver (5 min east from Main Street SkyTrain station).
Metro Vancouver’s Aging Population and the Need for Improved HandyDART Service was commissioned by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1724 and is available from http://www.ecoplanning.ca/selected-projects. ATU Local 1724 also commissioned the FOI requests described above: Trip Denials http://ecoplanning.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/FOI-Release-2014-009-1-2013-Denials-Refusals.pdf & http://ecoplanning.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/FOI-Release-2013-179-Denials-2008-12.pdf HandyDART Service Hours http://ecoplanning.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/FOI-Release-2014-012-2-Service-Hours-02-13.pdf
Jeff Nagel broke this story today on BC Local News. I really wonder how this will play out and cannot make any predictions, just raise some concerns.
Seniors, the disabled and other HandyDart users could be affected in the event of a strike, but essential service levels would first have to be approved by the Labour Relations Board.
First off, people with disabilities are the only people who use HandyDART – that is because it is a specialized transit system intended solely for people who cannot use the conventional transit system. That being said, the conventional transit system has been getting more accessible – the introduction of the low floor trolleybuses removing one of the largest barriers. But for many people it is not the transit system that is the problem – it is getting to it. HandyDart provides a door to door service – the driver will help people in ways that are not practical for a bus operator. Even when the bus itself is accessible, many bus stops are not. And the municipalities are all a long way behind making the streets easy to use for everyone. Continuous sidewalks are a rarity in most places – and dropped curbs seem to get put in for vehicles much more readily than for crosswalks.
But how the LRB defines “essential service” will also be interesting. HandyDart users do not get anything like the accessibility that the rest of us enjoy. They have to negotiate for every trip – and only those trips thought to be essential are likely to get a booking. Work, post secondary education and medical trips get priority in the booking system. If your trip request matches an existing van run and there is space you may be in luck. Regular trips also get served before “casual” trips – which was one of the reasons that Taxi Savers were introduced.
There is currently an ongoing ambulance strike – but that does not mean that you cannot get an ambulance if you need one. Though when it turns up it will have an “on strike” banner on it.
Users include renal patients requiring regular trips to local hospitals for kidney dialysis.
Usually that means a trip three times a week. And after dialysis, patients are often tired. I cannot think of a better case of “essential service” – but then that will also apply to many other types of trips which may not be quite so life threatening but will certainly have a devastating impact if they are denied. And most users of the services are among the most vulnerable members of society.
HandyDart is one of the few contracted out transit services in the region. It used to be operated by small local contracts – often by voluntary societies or other non-profits. That changed in recent times when MVT won all the contracts – and one of the reasons was said to be greater operational efficiencies offered by one operator rather than several. The greatest benefit being trips that crossed operational boundaries. Not that, in my experience, that was the greatest problem, but it seemed to me there was always more concern at management levels about efficiencies rather than service levels. Simply because a specialized service costs a great deal more than conventional transit, and fares cover a very small percentage of operating costs.
MVT has grown up in the US as a “minority owned” business. They have been remarkably successful. As you can see from the brief details of the dispute they did not get that way by throwing money around.
While MVT is offering modest pay hikes, [union president Dave] Watt said the firm wants to reduce payment for benefits, cut back vacation weeks and switch to a less generous pension plan.
He said MVT also wants the ability to contract out work and to end guaranteed hours, allowing the firm to send workers home early if there’s insufficient call volumes.
It’s a business, not a social service. MVT has to be concerned about its bottom line.
Taxis are not really an alternative. For one thing they cost a great deal and taxi savers are tightly rationed. For another, taxi drivers are one of the biggest sources of complaints from users with disabilities. While more licences have been issued in recent years for vans capable of loading a wheelchair, that has mostly increased the capacity to handle baggage for cruise ship passengers – and they tip better too.
I can only hope that negotiations are concluded successfully and speedily – and that if it does come to industrial action that the people impacted are given every possible consideration. It is bad enough to have a disability – but to have your support system snatched away is intolerable.
I would never have thought of Green Bay, Wisconsin, as being the kind of place to venture into untried fields of transit. But this story from the Fox River valley (the exurbia of Green Bay if you will) shows how transit can adapt to different needs of a sprawling area with jobs all over the place and no regular transit service possible
Valley Transit’s Connector service
What it is: A low-cost public transportation service to areas in and surrounding the Fox Cities, including sites beyond those on or near established Valley Transit routes. Operates from 4 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Saturday. Not available Sundays and holidays.
Annual budget: $136,050 annually, including $35,000 in United Way funding, $10,722 in projected fare revenue and state and federal public transportation funds
User fee per one-way trip: $3, or $1.50 plus standard Valley Transit fare for trips extending from transfer points on scheduled service routes
To schedule service: Call United Way at 2-1-1 or Valley Transit at 920-832-5800. Service can be scheduled within as little as two hours or as much as 14 days in advance
On the Web: www.vtconnector.com
Or to put it really simply, HandyDART for the rest of us (para-transit) . I have often wondered if there would be better dial a ride service if it were opened up to everyone. No one would tolerate the current level of service from HandyDART unless they were forced to by circumstances.
On the other hand it’s tough luck in Appleton if your job is in the retail or service sector where working Sundays and Holidays – especially for new hires – is mandatory.
In this region we are seeing jobs get smeared all over the landscape instead of being concentrated in regional centres, which was one of those policies that was central to the LRSP but which few municipalities dared try to implement. The developers persuded them that if they pursued it too diligently, the jobs would just go to the municipality next door. One of the reasons we needed a stronger regional body to overview land use in my opinion. It is already problematic for minimum wage workers to get to the new warehouses and distribution centres – like the HBC on No 8 Road.
Also notable – this is America after all – is that the initiative relies on charity – or is that an NGO? – to get going. You can’t expect much innovation from municipal agencies – look at the talent pool local politicians are drawn from.