Every week, Susan Chapelle says some of her clients at Squamish Integrated Health sit through long waits for the HandyDart bus. But what the municipal councillor says she's seen and what the provincial Crown transit operator says is occurring appear to be at odds.
The current door-to-door shared ride service is operating at a level where there is still spare capacity available to accommodate registered users, B.C. Transit spokesperson Maureen Sheehan wrote in an email to The Chief. The service and number of unfulfilled requests for rides are evaluated on a regular basis, she stated.
“On occasion trip requests are not met — especially in the peak travel periods,” Sheehan wrote. Chapelle said
Chapelle said she believes it's a common occurrence.
“All of the transit studies say we are fine. But the patients tell me [HandyDart] are fully booked,” Chapelle said, adding she's pushing the District of Squamish to fund an additional bus.
HandyDart is the cheapest transportation for seniors and the easiest way to help them maintain their mobility, she said. The district recently axed a Squamish Transit bus stop at Squamish's seniors' centre, making the topic more relevant, Chapelle noted.
Squamish's HandyDart vehicle provided 5,000 trips to passengers between 2011-'12, B.C. Transit's business development manager, Tania Wegwitz told Squamish council last year. Squamish's senior community is expected to represent 15.2 per cent of the town's population by 2031 and its 55-and-older crowd will rise to 26 per cent.
“We have an aging population and we need to keep ahead of the game,” Chapelle said.
B.C. transit regulations set the funding formula for the HandyDart service, with the municipality responsible for 33 per cent of the cost. Last year, officials estimated the district’s bill for a HandyDart bus equalled $44,000.