To the editor;
The increased use of taxis within HandyDart is something that disability advocates have been requesting for years. We’ve been asking for increased taxi use because HandyDart levels are inadequate and taxi use significantly increases the number of HandyDart rides that can be provided within the same budget. For example, the Montreal custom transit system uses over 90 per cent taxis and they provide almost twice as many rides as Metro Vancouver HandyDart does, for about the same budget.
Throughout North America, custom transit operators use taxis as part of their custom transit system to provide more needed rides. The independent auditor of TransLink services noted that our HandyDart service is much less efficient than other Canadian services, and recommended that TransLink increase the use of taxis to increase the number of rides provided in a cost efficient way. This same recommendation was recently passed by the City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee: that TransLink should substantially increase taxi service within HandyDart to provide more rides within the same funding envelope.
HandyDart currently does not meet people’s needs, and this is unacceptable. Taxis are an excellent way of meeting this unmet need because they are about half as expensive as a ride on a regular HandyDart vehicle. That is why advocates and the independent auditor have recommended more taxi rides – twice as many rides can be provided for the same amount of government funding.
In a system where there aren’t enough rides, where need and the seniors population are increasing, and where public funds are limited, it is crucial to find ways to provide more needed service within the same funding envelope. Increasing taxi use within HandyDart is an established international best practice to do that.
Also, while it is true that travel with an untrained driver is unsafe, it is also true that this can be remedied and that a solution is about to be implemented. For over a year, a group of disability and seniors organizations, including the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, the Coalition of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC, GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, the City of Vancouver Seniors Advisory Committee, CNIB, and the City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, have been working collaboratively with the Vancouver taxi companies to design an excellent taxi driver training program to provide safe and appropriate service. All Vancouver taxi drivers will be required to take this training and pass it. It will start in about two weeks. We hope this will also be implemented in other areas soon.
In summary, the recommendation that TransLink increase the use of taxis came from the disability community, is an international best practice, and was one of the recommendations of the independent auditor. Required taxi driver training and testing is about to be implemented. The safe use of taxis within HandyDart for persons with disabilities and seniors who want to use them should substantially increase the number of rides available and should significantly reduce the trip denial rate in a cost-effective and sustainable way.
Chair, City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee