Seniors ask council for improved HandyDART services

Seniors in Williams Lake are asking for extended HandyDART services.

Seniors in Williams Lake are asking for extended HandyDART services.

“We’d like to see HandyDART hours increased,” said Audrey MacLise of the Seniors Advisory Council.

“Right now they go 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. If we’ve got appointments, we don’t know if we’ll be done by then. We’d like to see it increased to 5 p.m., and to six days a week.”

Speaking on behalf of a delegation of seniors who attended the city’s public budget meeting Thursday, MacLise also told council having the service available on Saturdays would be helpful.

“Many events take place on Saturdays and we can’t get there,” she said.

“As a city you have to think about it. We really have to have an extended HandyDART service. It’s wonderful because it takes you door-to-door,” she said. She also suggested that a handicap taxi service be restored to the community.

“We haven’t had a handicap taxi for three years. One handicap lady single-handedly raised the money to buy a handicap taxi, but she’s since passed away,” MacLise explained, adding she has been in conversation with a local taxi operator who would be interested in offering the service.

In addition, MacLise talked about the taxi saver program — where tickets can be purchased from B.C. Transit to help subsidize the cost.

“Say the fare is $12. You produce the ticket, and you will pay $6. The taxi company gets the rest back from B.C. Transit. It’s a good idea because people could buy a book of tickets even as a gift for seniors.

“That’s been a good service, but people don’t know about it,” MacLise said.

People in the community are phoning her continually to find out if the community will be getting another handicap taxi, she said.

“We are at the point where we really want something to happen. Kamloops has five, Prince George has one and other cities have one too.”

MacLise suggested that the DriveABLE testing for seniors has forced more seniors to become reliable on public transit because they are losing their licenses.

“I received calls from the Kootenays and Alexis Creek last week from people who have lost their licenses,” she said. Another concern is the fact that the tests are taken on a touch screen computer. “If you’ve never sat in front of one before, it’s pretty daunting,” she said.

She added that people needing to take the tests have to travel to Prince George or Kamloops because those are the nearest centres offering them.

In the future the courses will be offered in communities to help seniors get accustomed to the testing, and MacLise has advocated that Williams Lake be on the top of the list.

After hearing from MacLise, council tasked staff with making a report on the cost of extending the present HandyDART service to reflect the additional 17 hours of service being requested.

Council had heard during the budget discussions that in 2012 the city will have to pay $30,590 toward the $435,700 operating transit budget to cover losses.

Taxation at $277,870, fees and charges at $187,720 and grants of $700 are used to offer transit.

Council also noted the regional manager of transit will be in the city to meet with staff and council so they will be able to ask questions about the logistics of extending HandyDART services at that time as well.