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Handy-Dart offers couple one-way rides

Langley City resident Gordon Chappell says he’s spending a lot more time on the phone trying to find rides to and from hospital for his wheelchair-bound wife, Edith, who requires regular dialysis. More and more, he says Handy-Dart rides are only one way, getting the couple to the treatments, but leaving them without a ride home. - Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times
Langley City resident Gordon Chappell says he’s spending a lot more time on the phone trying to find rides to and from hospital for his wheelchair-bound wife, Edith, who requires regular dialysis. More and more, he says Handy-Dart rides are only one way, getting the couple to the treatments, but leaving them without a ride home.
— image credit: Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times

A Langley City couple who use Handy-Dart buses to make their many medical appointments say the rides are increasingly becoming one-way trips, with the transit service telling them they will have to find their own way home.

Gordon Chappell said when he recently tried to book rides between Dec. 26 and Jan. 5 to Langley Memorial Hospital for his wife Edith, who is wheelchair-bound and requires dialysis three times a week, four of the trips he was offered were one-way, and on two days no rides at all were available.

It is far from the first time this has happened, he told The Times.

“They’ll get you there, but they won’t get you back,” Chappell said.

“That’s [getting home from hospital] a $12 trip one way by taxi.”

That is too expensive for Chappell, a 62-year-old former sales and marketing manager who has had four neck surgeries, and his 58-year-old wife, a former businesswoman. Both are on disability pensions. Because of his limited neck mobility, Chappell said he has difficulty driving more than short distances.

He said over the last two years, the number of one-way trips has increased, and so have the number of trips where Handy-Dart can only take them as far as a SkyTrain station.

“It’s worse,” Chappell said.

Chappell said he spends a lot of time on the phone with Handy-Dart dispatchers trying to find rides for his wife.

He said the people at Handy-Dart who take his calls “have been pretty damn good,” polite and sympathetic, but they simply don’t have enough vans available.

“They’ll say, ‘I’m going through the [computer] screen and nothing is showing up’,” Chappell said.

A social worker with the provincial social services ministry has had to step in more than once to help them by paying for return trips by taxis, Chappell said.

In response to a Times query, Martin Lay, the director of transit services for the Coast Mountain Bus Company  said the company has taken steps to reduce the number of “trip denials” but money is tight.

“TransLink [the transit authority in charge of Coast Mountain and Handy-Dart] is working to find ways to ensure our services effectively serve our customers’ needs while operating efficiently and within our means,” Lay said in an email to The Times.

“However, without additional funding sources, TransLink is not in a position to expand services, either for conventional transit or for Handy-Dart” Lay added.

Lay suggested the Chappells should call the TransLink customer assistance line which is “prepared to assist as much as possible.”

Lay said about three per cent of Handy-Dart trip requests were denied in 2012, for reasons that include “trips that cannot be accommodated, cancellations at the door and no-shows.”

The number of trip denials has been reduced by a new program that uses taxis to substitute for the Handy-Dart vans when a patient’s mobility permits, Lay said.

“This has resulted in at least 7,000 more trips for our Handy-Dart customers in 2013 and reduced the current number of trip denials.”

Chappell said he would be prepared to pay more than the $2.75 a ride he pays Handy-Dart now if that would help make more trips available.

“It’s cheap, really, Chappell said.

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