HandyDART ridership was down four per cent, with revenues down three per cent in the Alberni-Clayoquot region last year, causing at least one regional director to wonder if the service should be replaced with taxi service.
BC Transit regional manager for Vancouver Island Myrna Moore told the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District board that the ridership decrease is equivalent to 700 less rides. That got Beaufort director Mike Kokura wondering if changes need to be made.
“If ridership is going down and cost is going up, wouldn’t it be better off to hire taxi rides for these people,” Kokura asked. “HandyDART is a fixed cost if one person is on it or not. A taxi would not charge if it’s empty.”
In 2012-2013, HandyDART operated 5,368 hours for the year, providing 18,155 rides. About 3.3 rides per hour.
Moore said taxis are used to augment the HandyDART service, but it wouldn’t be a viable replacement as it would actually cost more if all HandyDART rides were replaced with taxis. She also wasn’t concerned with the slight drop, which mostly occurred in Port Alberni and Cherry Creek, because the numbers increased in Beaver Creek, Sproat Lake and Beaufort.
Moore said HandyDART has been trying to increase ridership outside the city, but with no increase in service hours or number of buses, the rural increase is at the expense of the city.
“In the city, we can do a trip within 15 minutes,” Moore said. “For someone in Sproat Lake, it takes longer.”
Moore added that HandyDART ridership is expected to fluctuate as the primary users are the elderly and disabled. For the first three months of this year, she said ridership actually increased by five per cent from last year.
The HandyDART service costs between $2 and $4.50 one way for a passenger and escort depending on the distance to be travelled, according to BC Transit’s Port Alberni website. The ACRD pays 33 per cent of the cost and BC Transit pays 67 per cent.
Four HandyDART vehicles will be replaced, which has already been factored into the budget, Moore added.
HandyDART provides door-to-door service to people with physical or cognitive disabilities. It operates Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is no Saturday service. Diversified Transportation Limited has the contract to provide HandyDART service in the Alberni-Clayoquot region.