Viewpoint: handyDART goes above the call of duty

I read with great interest the article [“Region’s transit system an area of concern for seniors,” October 3]. My husband is a senior, disabled and in a wheelchair. We use the handyDART for over 250 rides a year. 

Overall the article is excellent, but I take great exception to [a seniors community council member] saying “what has become clear is: the drivers need sensitivity training...and they need to be given adequate time for pickup and drop-off of seniors with disabilities to decrease the stress of tight scheduling.”

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When there are only two full-time drivers and one full-time scheduler, this feels like publicly shaming three people. Other opinions should be solicited, and the people most affected should be asked for an opinion.

So, this is my viewpoint. We have an excellent rapport with all of the handyDART staff. It is utter nonsense, and indeed offensive, to suggest the drivers need sensitivity training in dealing with seniors, and to imply the scheduler is doing a poor job at any time.

Yes, more capacity is needed for the handyDART. I wrote to the city asking for increased services for the handyDART. The scheduler is doing an amazing job with the resources at hand, trying to maximize rides, and is now being criticized for doing so: “the stress of tight scheduling.”

Within the existing resources you cannot have it both ways, loose scheduling and meeting as many ride requests as possible.  Further, the loss of the Willingdon Creek bus has put greater stress on the handyDART, and the staff has managed incredibly well.

As to adequate time for pickup and drop-off for clients with disabilities, seniors or not, we have not once in the past year, in over 250 rides, experienced a lack of time in pickups or drop-offs.

Some suggestions to riders: be ready 15 minutes before the scheduled time, as per the handyDART brochure; cancel rides infrequently and if possible with a minimum 24 hours’ notice.

I understand there are “no shows” every day. Willingdon Creek ADP has to call the scheduler every morning with immediate changes. This is not to put blame on Willingdon Creek, but it shows once again the complex job staff is asked to do, and the incredible job the handyDART staff is doing. 

Now, I have an alternative opinion of the drivers of handyDART.  Firstly, they are underpaid and deserve a raise.

We are without a doubt handyDART driver fans. They know us, our names, our regular rides and interests. They greet us. We chat. We see them chat with other riders. They treat us in a kind, caring and professional manner.

I have countless instances where a handyDART driver has gone above the call of duty to deliver my husband to an event. I see drivers who care about each and every client, each and every ride.

And from my husband and me, a great, positive shout-out to the HandyDART staff. Well done. Keep up the good work.

Kathryn Hjorleifson is a Powell River resident.

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