TransLink’s bookable, door-to-door shuttle service for seniors and people with disabilities who are unable to use the conventional public transit services with ease will be able to access Compass Card and age-based discounts for their fares starting in October 2021.
In a public meeting today, TransLink’s board of directors provided final approval to provide HandyDART passengers in the age groups of 13 to 18 and 65+ with lower fares. This means about three quarters of overall HandyDART passengers have access to cheaper fares.
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Currently, these age groups would have to pay $2.45 for a one-zone faresaver and $100.25 for a one-zone monthly pass on Compass Card, but starting on October 1 their fares will be reduced to $2 one-zone cash or stored value on Compass Card and $57.30 for a monthly pass allowing unlimited travel through all zones.
HandyDART passengers will also be able to use Compass Cards and Tap to Pay with contactless cards in the service’s specialized vehicles.
All of these changes allow passengers to more easily travel between HandyDART and conventional transit services such as bus, SeaBus, SkyTrain, and West Coast Express.
In addition to the fare changes and adoption of Compass Card, the board of directors also approved a revised system to make a personal consultation component in the HandyDART application process optional instead of temporary.
This application process is intended to help improve HandyDART’s service quality and availability by allowing TransLink to better understand the needs and abilities of riders, enable conditional eligibility, and provide a more customer-centric experience. After consulting with riders this past spring, the public transit authority will include the options of both in-person consultation and the alternative for a rider’s medical authority to provide the required information.
TransLink states the new application process will not begin until 2023 at the earliest.
Ridership on HandyDART increased considerably in the years prior to the pandemic, and this trend is expected to continue from the region’s growing and aging population.
Compared to 2018, average ridership in 2019 was up by 24.4% on weekdays, 12.5% on Saturdays, and 19.9% on Sundays and holidays. This totals 1.38 million trips by HandyDART, including 1.98 million trips by the HandyDART buses and 183,500 trips by the Supplemental Taxi Service. These figures include anyone accompanying a passenger as their companion or assistant.
Currently, due to pandemic conditions, HandyDART is seeing 40% of its pre-pandemic ridership volumes.
About 95% of the trips are boarded with two or fewer clients (including any companion or assistant) allowing for physical distancing. HandyDART is also providing food deliveries and community trips to vaccination sites.
Over the first four months of 2021, HandyDART provided a total of 1,142 vaccination-related trips to regular HandyDART passengers.
“We know that HandyDART is an essential part of our regional transit system, and demand for the service is growing as the region’s population continues to increase,” said interim TransLink CEO Gigi Chen-Kuo in a statement.
“Through our public engagement process, we received valuable feedback from the community, and we worked together to make changes that will improve the transit experience for our customers.”
For everyone else using conventional public transit services, fares will be increasing for the first time in two years on July 1, 2021.