TransLink considers elderly

How will baby boomers get around Greater Vancouver when they’re old and frail?

By The Vancouver Sun

That’s one of the questions TransLink will be asking if the regional transportation authority’s directors approve a plan to develop a new accessible transit strategy.

TransLink has been expanding its fleet of wheelchair-accessible buses and most SkyTrain stations are accessible.

But many people with disabilities or mobility problems rely on the door-to-door HandyDart bus service to get to medical and other appointments, and HandyDart has been criticized for being underfunded and inadequate.

A staff recommendation to TransLink would authorize contract extensions to the end of 2006 with contractors that provide HandyDart service, buying time to study future transportation needs and come up with a strategic plan by the end of this year.

The TransLink board votes on the plan Wednesday.

“Fabulous,” said Michael Goldberg, research director of the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C., when told Friday of the TransLink plan.

“Its definitely important that all communities, not just TransLink, look at what is often referred to as an accessibility lens,” Goldberg said.

“To what extent [are] the built environment [and] transportation systems, etc., accessible to all the people that have mobility limitations?”

Goldberg said the new accessible buses are a help, but “the present system definitely could use a tweak or two.”

SPARC-BC staff have been working with TransLink officials to sketch out a new accessibility plan.

The TransLink staff report said the agency plans to study:

– The aging population and demographic shifts “that may result in many elderly residing in areas that have not had large numbers of seniors in the past.”

– Whether transit for the disabled should continue to be seen as a separate system such as HandyDart, since the conventional transit system will be nearly 100 per cent accessible in a few years when the bus fleet is completely replaced.

– Whether some services increasingly provided by HandyDart, such as transporting patients to community-based medical services like kidney dialysis, should be funded out of the provincial health care budget rather than the transit agency.


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