A not well-known fact is that HandyDart, the TransLink service that is provided for people with physical and cognitive disabilities is not actually operated by TransLink but is contracted out to a subsidiary of an American company operating as MVT Canadian Bus Incorporated.
Transportation Planner Eric Doherty has prepared a new report recommending that TransLink bring the HandyDart service into the TransLink fold. As reported by Jennifer Saltman in The Vancouver Sun Doherty observes that “The evidence points to operating HandyDart directly as a public service as the best way to provide safe and quality service. Contracting out to any of the large corporations that provide management services to transit agencies will likely compromise quality of service without any real cost saving.”
Doherty wrote a report in 2013 that showed that many disabled people were being denied HandyDart trips, and provided his latest report at the request of the union in terms of the service and its governance. Chief among the findings was the need to have accountability, clear governance, and to increase the service by five per cent a year by 2021. Doherty based these figures on the fact that seniors over 70 will increase by 53 per cent in the ten years, with a commensurate demand for HandyDart services.
Since MTV’s contract with Translink expires in 2018, TransLink is already looking at developing a custom transit services call centre and assessing passenger trip delivery. TransLink did undertake a review of the HandyDart service in 2016 as the service did not respond on time for people needing access to medical appointments, and taxi trips also paid for by TransLink increased. At the time the decline in acceptable service was “blamed on a freeze in service hours attributed to the actions of the then-Liberal government and appointed TransLink board of directors.”
TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond observed that “whether it’s our own employees or a contracted employee at HandyDart or Canada Line, that we hold them accountable to performance standards and performance outcomes. I don’t know that we were doing that well enough on HandyDart when I got here. We are doing it better now.”
A final decision on whether HandyDart will be brought in-house or again contracted out will be made at the end of 2017.