TransLink launches consultation on TaxiSaver program
TransLink has put its controversial plan to eliminate the TaxiSaver program on hold while it launches consultations on the issue.
The move follows opposition from seniors and people with disabilities to TransLink's announcement earlier this month that it would phase out the program that provides half-price taxi coupons for HandyCard holders starting this July.
“When the decision that was brought forward to the board to recommend redirecting the TaxiSaver dollars to HandyDart to serve the needs of more, that objective remains, and that’s why we’re wanting to consult and get input relative to that decision,” TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis said during the organization’s annual general meeting today (May 30).
"In light of commencing that additional consultation now, those specific timelines—they're going to need to change...Our view is we need to take the time that’s required to fully understand the implications of the decision.”
New Westminster resident Betty Newton told TransLink officials at the meeting today that the majority of people using the TaxiSaver program depend on it for things that come up on short-term notice and can’t be booked in advance through HandyDart.
“Our life is not governed in three-day bookings down the road, and seven-day bookings down the road,” she said.
“When the doctor’s office calls and says can you take an appointment tomorrow morning, and you want to say yes, you need a taxi saver.”
The first of the consultation meetings on the TaxiSaver program was held following the AGM today. The consultation process will involve people with disabilities, special needs and seniors, according to TransLink.
Jill Weiss, the chair of Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, was among about 50 people that attended the first of the consultation meetings this afternoon.
She said she’s been encouraged by the “widespread public reaction” against the plan to phase out the TaxiSaver program.
“They may really listen or it may not be real,” she said of the consultation process. “If they don’t listen…we will not go away. I think they maybe don’t understand that.”
Weiss said concerns about the elimination of the program include the costs of administration compared to the HandyDart system.
“TaxiSavers are still the least expensive way to provide rides in the custom transit system, and transferring money from that to the more expensive HandyDart system will reduce the number of rides for the same amount of money—that’s just arithmetic,” she said.
Vancouver city council unanimously endorsed a motion Tuesday (May 29) opposing the elimination of the TaxiSaver program.
Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs said members of both the city’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee and the Seniors Advisory Committee raised concerns about the cuts to the service.
“This came right out of the blue, and it’s going to probably lead to the loss of tens of thousands of trips,” Meggs told the Straight by phone this morning.
“It’s unfortunate, because the financial crisis hitting TransLink is falling first and heaviest on people who are least able to deal with it—the most vulnerable, and people who need these services for medical reasons and because they have no other way to get around.”
When TransLink announced its plan to phase out the TaxiSaver program earlier this month, the organization said the cut would save $1.1 million per year over the next three years.