TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis speaks at annual general meeting, announcing shift in plan to eliminate TaxiSaver program.

TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis speaks at annual general meeting, announcing shift in plan to eliminate TaxiSaver program.

Critics spur TransLink to reconsider scrapping TaxiSavers

More consultation, possible reprieve on half-price cab rides for elderly, disabled

TransLink is tapping the brakes on its plan to phase out its TaxiSaver program for elderly or disabled HandyDart clients after strong opposition from those affected.

The transportation authority now says it will hold a new round of consultations and back off on the planned one-year timeline to eliminate the program, which offers $50 a month in taxi subsidies.

TransLink said it would take the $1.1 million a year it now injects into TaxiSavers and instead invest more into HandyDart service, providing an estimated 20,000 more rides per year that way. Some of the money would be used to dispatch taxis to provide rides when HandyDart is unavailable.

The original decision was endorsed by the Access Transit Users Advisory Committee.

But different users objected to the plan, arguing TaxiSavers were more flexible than booking a HandyDart ride, which must often be done several days ahead.

Users also fear the new system may end up being more expensive or that they may face more pressure to take regular transit.

“We have now heard from other users about their concerns and recognize we need to listen to more people,” TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis said Wednesday.

More than 18,000 HandyDart trip requests were denied last year because the service was oversubscribed and that problem has worsened this year.

TransLink will reconsider now best to use the money that has been going to TaxiSavers, officials said.

“Investing in HandyDart service is the right thing to do, and this will help us serve more people,” Jarvis said. “We understand that there is a growing need to provide more public transportation options for people with disabilities and special needs.”

The coupons for half-price taxi rides were being stockpiled by users, resulting in a growing liability for TransLink, and officials said there was no way to prevent reselling to unauthorized users.

TransLink planned to stop selling TaxiSavers in August and stop honouring them in June of 2013.

TaxiSavers were created in 1990 before all of TransLink’s fleet was upgraded to low-floor or lift-equipped buses.

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