From The Advocate, September 2012
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TAXI SAVER PROGRAM SAVED
Working together results in a significant victory for seniors
Published September, 2012 - After massive protests from seniors and people with disabilities, TransLink has decided to keep its Taxi Saver program. The TransLink Board was hit with phone calls, e-mails, letters and a public outcry after it decided in May to eliminate the service. That decision was officially reversed on July 12.
Nancy Olewiler said TransLink did not have a full understanding of the importance of the service in providing an accessible transit system.
“The Taxi Saver program is re-instated in its entirety,” said Olewiler. “I regret any angst we have caused for people who were fearful the program was not going to continue. That was not the intention. We actually thought we were going to make the system better.”
The Taxi Saver service – operated by TransLink in Metro Vancouver and by B.C. Transit in other communities – was started 20 years ago to complement HandyDart. Registered users can call a taxi and pay half price using pre-bought coupons.
TransLink had planned to shift the $1.1 million savings from eliminating Taxi Saver into HandyDart which is unable to meet the demand. There were 18,000 occasions where users were unable to book a seat on HandyDart during 2011.
The Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of B.C. (COSCO), of which BC FORUM is an affiliate, and the Coalition of People with Disabilities pointed out that Taxi Saver is critical to the independence of many seniors. For example, people who must make an unplanned trip to a clinic, or stay later than expected at a doctor’s office, rely on the service. HandyDart trips must be booked in advance for specific times.
In a joint statement, Lorraine Logan of COSCO and Jane Dyson, executive director of the Coalition of People with Disabilities, applauded the TransLink Board for its decision to maintain the Taxi Saver service.
“We would also like to congratulate the organizations and individuals who worked hard to show TransLink why Taxi Savers are so important to the dignity and independence of seniors and people with disabilities.
“By truly listening to the voices of people who use Taxi Savers and acting on what it heard, the Board has demonstrated that it values community consultation. We are encouraged that going forward TransLink will continue to engage in true community consultation when it develops plans that impact people with disabilities and seniors,” they said.
Jill Weiss, Chair of Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities advisory committee, said, “It was a real grass roots uprising. It is a good example of the community in action, and of people actually listening and showing the wisdom and courage of saying they were wrong and changing their minds.”