About one-third of B.C. HandyDart riders are saying the ride service is not meeting their needs, specifically when it comes to ride availability and wait times for rides.
That’s according to a report released by the Office of the Seniors Advocate Thursday, which surveyed 7,500 HandyDart riders across the province.
Survey questions included what people think of the application process, the availability of rides, the cost of the service, as well as overall satisfaction levels.
Seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie said while the survey highlights a 91 per cent approval of how the ride service currently runs, the service is still not meeting the needs of all its users.
"Obviously there’s good news here,” Mackenzie said. “People are telling us that across many aspects of this service, things are positive, however we are still concerned that there are a significant number of seniors whose transportation needs are not being met,” she said.
Wait times, and getting to their destination on time was the issue that affected most survey respondents.
While 60 per cent of clients report they always reach appointments on time, less than half reported they are always picked up within the 30-minute window.
Majority of respondents said they use HandyDart primarily to get to medical appointments, then social outings, and running errands.
Other reasons for the low rating of service include the booking experience, and the time required to book rides in advance.
When placed on standby, 26 per cent of survey respondents said they were rarely or never able to get a ride when placed on standby, and 38 per cent aren’t fully certain of how no-show and cancellation policies work.
And costs for the service are also an issue for riders, the survey shows.
About 17 per cent of respondents said the cost was too high.
It costs about $2.50 to ride the HandyDart one way. A month pass costs $40 to $70, depending on age.
The survey shows just more than half of the riders have an income of less than $20,000, while 15 per cent have an income less than $10,000 a year.
Mackenzie said costs are something that need to be looked closely at.
“While 83 per cent of respondents told us cost is not an issue, we have to remember that some of our lowest income seniors rely heavily on this service and they clearly are telling us if it cost less, they would use it more,” she said.
HandyDart is a door-to-door service for passengers with physical or cognitive disabilities who are unable to use conventional public transit without assistance. Most users are over the age of 65 – or 78 per cent.