HANDYDART ABUSES DISABLED – TRANSLINK NEEDS TO ADDRESS THIS NOW !!!
By Sandford Tuey – Canada
British Columbian taxpayers fund Translink, which controls funds to a special disabled transportation shuttle bus program called ‘HandyDart’. BC taxpayers pay for the HandyDart buses, personnel and services provided 365 days a year. On paper this is a prime example of the generosity and compassion of Canadians for helping mobility restricted individuals (Persons With Disabilities ‘PWD’, seniors and anyone who cannot use the regular bus system). So why did Translink give the HandyDart dispatch contract to an American entity = MVT? Why send Millions of Canadian tax payer’s dollars down south?
The HandyDart mandate promises to transport Persons With Disabilities, veterans and the elderly DOOR-TO-DOOR service. Their shuttle buses seat approximately between six, plus two wheelchair bound people, up to 10 passengers plus two wheelchair PWD. This service is vital for these people to get out into the community, go to hospitals and doctor appointments. HandyDart service does not always live up to their claim, since it is not run as efficiently as it could be. I personally believe this is due to the American Dispatch (MVT) group controlling the drivers, bus schedules and telephone booking system.
HandyDart introduces itself to new users with a letter, after you prove you are a Person With Disability (PWD) or a senior that has medical mobility problems recommended by their doctor. The company assigns you a number and their letter explains the ‘Booking a Ride’ process. Attendants may travel free with authorized HandyDart passengers and some PWD’s require their assistance, others take their wives shopping or traveling all over the lower mainland, which is fine. After all, these users have to have a life too.
HandyDart proudly proclaims that it is a premium DOOR TO DOOR service, yet they do not live up to their hype. For example: HandyDart does not accept Annual Transit Passes, War Amputee or CNIB (Canadian National Institute of the Blind) passes or the Regular Bus Pass Card which are not valid on the HandyDart system. The fees are $2.75 one way for 1 & 2 zones, 3 zones is $4 and for 4 or more zones $5.50 per trip. So if you want to travel to and return home from a hospital 4 zones away, it will cost you $11. When compared to a regular bus trip cost of $ 2.75 for unlimited zones on a bus for a time limit, HandyDart seems to be is ripping off the disabled. Add to this that a PWD (Person With Disabilites) used to receive an annual bus pass for $45 per year, but the BC LIEberals (Christy Clark’s anti-marriage and anti-disabled party) jacked the bus pass cost for the Disabled from $45 a year, up to $91 a month. THAT IS AN INCREASE OF $1,047 / year!!!
This unbelievable unfair increase steals food out of the mouths of low income Disabled people, Veterans and poor seniors across BC. This change reduces the already small amount of money a HandyDart passenger can afford to buy food with, causing even more hardship for these sick and ill passengers. Allegedly the profit revenue grab is going into general BC revenue and most likely was used to give the BC MLA’s a raise! The BC LIEberlas must not be elected ever again, unless you do not care for your grandparents and mobile restricted fellow Canadians. So if you want to screw your grandparents and the disabled veterans and elderly vote BC LIEberal!
CONCERNS THE PASSENGERS HAVE:
- I talk to all the HandyDart bus drivers, but out of 11 I have met so far only 6 could talk and drive at the same time. I thought this was the age of Multi-tasking, but I guess not. These single minded individuals ranged from mid-thirties to mid sixties. I was surprised the younger drivers could not drive and talk and some even have to pull over when the dispatch contacted them over the radio. This concerned me but it is not my position to say anything. One time, while talking to another passenger, the driver raised his voice and demanded that we both be quiet. We both were surprised and the other passenger shut up. I was quite offended and reminded this driver, from Eastern Europe (Kosovo), that as long as Canada allows Free Speech I will use it. He told me to be quiet because he needed to concentrate on his driving. I said again, “In Canada we have FREE SPEECH and I will not be quiet as long as Free Speech is legal in Canada”. I calmly explained that no one has the right to suppress my rights or anyone else’s rights. I further explained that I have friends that risked their lives as United Nation PeaceKeepers in Kosovo, Bosnia and Serbia and that he should be thankful Canadians were there when their citizens were desperately needing to stop the Ethnical cleansing, or he may not be alive today. He might not have been able to migrate to our wonderful nation, if it wasn’t for UN Canadian soldiers risking their lives to protect strangers, things may have been very different for him and his family. The lower mainland of Vancouver was hit with five major blizzards this winter 2016-2017. The first snow storm was perfect for Christmas, but none of the cities were prepared for it. The municipalities do not have the necessary city equipment to deal with such an enormous amount of snow. Side streets and back allies were left uncleared and HandyDart buses were not prepared to deal with such high risk driving. All the drivers I talked to were very concerned with getting stuck and having to call dispatch to send another bus to transfer passengers on their bus to an unstuck bus. This would be a major hassle and undertaking for the passengers, who can barely walk on flat dry ground, then there is the issue of wheelchairs moving in slush and snow. Then they would have to contact a tow truck to get the bus unstuck. I started to look at the HandyDart bus tires and could not believe how dangerously bald some were. Several drivers informed me that all buses have only All Season tires and very rarely get Winter tires, even in extreme snow and ice conditions.
- HandyDart is owned by Translink, a Canadian company that operates the regular bus system and Skytrain. For some unknown reason Translink transferred the HandyDart Administration and Dispatch to an American company MVT. This is not logical since millions of Canadian dollars for this BC contract are sent to the USA. I don’t understand why!! Many drivers complain that the US company treats the passengers and drivers with disdain. That MVT does not care about the riders or the drivers and this is unethical and outright evil. Translink must return the contract to a Canadian group as soon as the present contract is over. Several times, that I am aware of, the dispatch (who organize trips and notify drivers who to pick up, where to drop passengers off or if the disabled person has an assistant or if they are in a wheelchair) make mistakes. These errors could turn deadly as some Persons With Disabilities are Diabetic and must eat at certain times or their blood sugars get out of whack and can send them into a coma or even kill them. I personally experienced delays more often then I wish and have actually been forgotten by dispatch several times. Once, three of us were forgotten and our half hour pick-up window had passed and I had to phone HandyDart dispatch, who apologized and promised to send another bus. Half an hour later a bus picked up the other passengers but put me on a bus that already had five people who were let off before me at their homes, all the way up in North Coquitlam (way out of my way as I live near Metrotown Mall on Kingsway Street, Burnaby. Then, on the way to go to my home, the US dispatch added two new pick-ups who were driven to their destinations before me, which delayed me even more. I usually get picked up at the RCH (Royal Columbia Hospital in New Minister) around 12:30 PM and get home around 1:30 – 2PM. This trip I got home at past 3:30 PM. I was shaking from too low of blood sugar from not eating lunch soon enough. I am lucky I did not go into shock or a coma or die! When a HandyDart bus is not available, the Dispatch sometimes sends a taxi to complete your trip. This is good and bad, which also require a HandyDart bus ticket. The taxi drivers rarely get out of their cabs, especially if it is raining, snowing or cold. The taxi drivers do not go to the door and buzz you at home if you are not waiting on the sidewalk out front of your pick-up address (some HandyDart drivers don’t do this either). Instead they wait about 5 minutes and then drive away, since they get paid for the trip either way. I have had a cab company call me once to come down, since he was out front. I do not struggle out to the curb anymore because of extreme cold, rain, snow, hail or slush. HandyDart service is supposed to be Door-to-Door but it is not in this case. Most HandyDart drivers will escort passengers to their front doors to ensure no one falls down, which happens. I never know when a taxi may be picking me up, so I am forced to struggle out to the curb and stand out in the freezing cold, snow, blizzard and pouring rain, while waiting for a HanyDart or a taxi. If I don’t, I may miss my ride to Dialysis, which would be life threatening.
- HandyDart is supposed to phone riders if they are not going to be at their predetermined pick up address on time or if they have arrived and the passengers are not out front. I have been riding HandyDart since September 2014 and never once have I ever received a call when the arrive would be. When I call HandyDart to request a call, the US dispatch promises they will call me, but never do. Why? I explained my predicament that I require to have HandyDart drivers and taxi drivers come to the front door of my apartment building so I can remain dry, warm and safe waiting in the lobby and to escort me to the bus. Some HandyDart drivers do this but there is no consistency on this service or times they arrive or deliver passengers. The US dispatch said they would, yet many times my ride was changed to a taxi and I have had to go out to the curb after my pick up window has elapsed, wondering if a taxi has come and gone. This needs to be addressed and corrected immediately, for I am not the only one who has been forgotten or just not been informed that the taxi is outside waiting.
- The taxi company contract should be renegotiated or transferred to a more dependable company. Bonnies taxi has mainly drivers from India or Pakistan, who I enjoy talking with. I have experienced drivers who when I enter their taxi, already have the pay meter running, which sometimes has started at over $5, when it normally is to start at $3.50 and only begin charging once the passenger enters the cab. Several times I have taxi drivers extend the trip to RCH by driving the long way, instead of the quicker regular course the HandyDart drivers take to the hospital. This increases the trip cost and rips off HandayDart, which gets it’s funding from BC taxpayers. When I tried to explain this to the American Dispatch, nothing was ever addressed and this abuse continues.
The complaints from disabled and senior passengers are so many, that a few riders have created a group that notifies HandyDart and Translink/MVT of these abuses and problems, hoping to have them corrected, but after every meeting, nothing seems to be done about this. The disabled continue to be kicked around like old unwanted baggage. It is time for a major change and to not waste Canadian dollars on a foreign company (MVT) who are providing this service more for the cash than to help passengers. It is long overdue to give the HandyDart Dispatch contract back to Canadians!! ASAP!