Many able-bodied transit riders are “disgusted” with TransLink, but they should stop and think about how they’ll get around when they’re older or if they suffer an injury, according to Beth McKellar.
She’s a coordinator of the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, which is campaigning for a “yes” vote as the Metro Vancouver transit plebiscite heads into the homestretch. McKellar told the Georgia Straight she’s worried a “no” win will result in cuts to HandyDART, TransLink’s door-to-door service for people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities.
“Folks that have knee surgery, hip surgery, if they don’t have a family member or aren’t rich enough to have a caretaker look after them, HandyDART’s there for them,” McKellar said by phone from Burnaby. “It’ll be sad to see us get pushed further down the ladder.”
McKellar, who has a spinal-cord injury and uses a service dog, has been a HandyDART client for 15 years. According to the 56-year-old, the number of HandyDART service hours has been frozen since 2009, resulting in some users waiting for rides that never come.
The plan of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation calls for a 30-percent increase in HandyDART service—or 190,000 additional hours—over 10 years. This would have a capital cost of $19.9 million and an annual operating cost of $14.7 million.
“But we’re pushing to get this full 30 percent in the first five years, because it is so desperately needed,” McKellar said. “The number of people over 70 in Metro Vancouver, well, they’re going to be increasing by 40 percent in the next decade.”
According to Jordan Bateman, spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s No TransLink Tax campaign, a “yes” win won’t benefit HandyDART riders.
“Past behaviour predicts future behaviour, and we know what TransLink does with HandyDART,” Bateman told the Straight by phone from Langley. “The board of directors has a completely different view of that service than the people who use it.”
The deadline to ask Elections B.C. for a voting package is Friday (May 15). Ballots must be received by Elections B.C. before 8 p.m. on May 29.