The family of a wheelchair user in East Preston says Halifax Transit’s accessible bus system doesn’t provide regular service to rural parts of the municipality.
Harriet Fagan’s husband William Fagan, a retired engineer with the Canadian Coast Guard, has used a motorized wheelchair since 2010.
Since the couple couldn’t afford to convert their own vehicle or buy an accessible one, they rely on the Access-A-Bus service to get William Fagan to his medical appointments.
They say they used to be able to call an accessible bus any time they needed until changes instituted by Halifax Transit, which limited pickup and drop-off times to when regular buses are scheduled in a community.
Access-A-Bus follows other routes
Since Route 401, which serves East Preston, only runs a few times in the morning and evening and not at all on weekends, the Fagans say making it to medical appointments is tricky or impossible.
Harriet Fagan says it’s been challenging to get her husband to medical appointments since the accessible bus system starting changing last fall. (CBC)
In one case, they needed to go to Sackville.
“The bus was able to pick us up and take us to the appointment but they weren’t able to pick us up and bring us home,” Harriet Fagan said.
“We were told that William’s appointments had to be within those times that community transit runs.”
2,200 registered users
City spokesperson Tiffany Chase says the Access-A-Bus system is a popular one and the need is growing. There are 38 Access-A-Bus vehicles, 2,200 registered users and about 500 trips a day.
City spokesperson Tiffany Chase says 38 Access-A-Bus vehicles serve about 2,200 users. (CBC)
“What we’ve seen is a significant increase in demand since 2012. We know there isn’t likely going to be resources available to us to expand on that service,” said Chase.
The city says it is easing the burden on Access-A-Bus by converting more of its conventional buses to “low riders,” which can lower down to curb level to let people in wheelchairs drive right on.
But in the Fagans’s case, they say that wouldn’t help because the closest bus stop to their homes doesn’t have a curb and the gap would still be too large to navigate.
Group calls for taxis
A group of people from Halifax’s disabled community are proposing a different solution for rural users. Six people recently sent a letter to the mayor and regional council calling for accessible taxis.
They say adding taxis to Halifax Transit’s fleet would improve service and lower the cost to the city.
The “Access-A-Taxi” proposal goes to the city’s transportation committee on March 24.