In Accessible Transportation

There are 4.4 million Canadians living with cialis order a disability—that’s one in seven—and this percentage increases dramatically with age. Amongst Canadians aged 75 years and older, 56 per cent live with a disability.

As we approach SCI BC’s annual Bus Stop Hop on August 17th, an amazing race across Vancouver’s public transit system, we wanted to know: how accessible is Vancouver’s transit system, really?

According to TransLink, it’s not bad. In 2008, TransLink’s fleet—including all buses, the SkyTrain, the West Coast Express and the Sea Bus—became one of the first fully accessible fleets in North America. However, that doesn’t mean anyone can hop on any bus anywhere, anytime.

In June 2012, only 63.5 per cent of bus stops in Metro Vancouver (which encompasses 22 municipalities) were deemed accessible by TransLink.

If you look exclusively at the city of Vancouver and UBC however, almost 80 per cent of bus stops were labeled accessible as of June 2012.

So what do these numbers really mean in the life of the average transit user in a wheelchair? Spinal Cord Injury BC talked to four people to get their perspectives on the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to using Vancouver’s transportation system.

Our panel includes:

Jill Weiss, the Chair of the City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee. She was a major leader in the movement to save the TaxiSaver program and is a regular public transit user who lives in Vancouver.

Vivian Garcia, a former BC Paraplegic Association (BCPA) employee in charge of transportation issues and now a member of the Accessible Transit Team, which investigates customer complaints related to accessibility. “We like to call ourselves the A-team,” says Garcia. She is a regular public transit user who lives in New Westminster.

Jim Dawe, The Manager of Transition and Quality Assurance for Coast Mountain Bus Company. He is also a member of “The A-Team” and has been involved in the accessible transit department since 1996.

Vince Miele, another former BCPA employee. Currently serving as the Chair of the Richmond Centre for Disability and Independent Living. He is a semi-regular transit user who lives in Richmond.

(How did we choose these people? Very unscientifically; they were individuals that we could reach within short notice who had strong ideas about public transit. We encourage you to share your thoughts at the end of this blog post, via Facebook or Twitter if you feel like we’ve omitted something.)

Here are their thoughts on the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the accessibility of Vancouver’s public transportation system:



Full Accessibility

I’ve traveled to most of the major cities in Canada—Toronto, Montreal, St. John’s and pretty much every province—and I’ve also traveled across Europe and North America. I think it’s probably one of the most accessible systems in North America.” –Vince Miele

The buses all have lifts. That decision was made in 1989 as a result of some excellent community action.” –Jill Weiss

We now have a fully accessible service. We’re still complaining, but what’s funny is that in 1986, the only accessible service we had was the SkyTrain and HandyDart and now we can use everything! There was a time when we couldn’t go out unless we had a ride! Can you imagine? Anyone can use [public transit] and that in itself is pretty cool.” –Vivian Garcia

The approach that we’ve taken that I like is that we’ve made it accessible to everyone. We go to the individuals who have the most problems—and those are usually people with wheelchair scooters. Essentially if you have everything paved for a wheelchair or a scooter, you’re making it easier for everyone; people who can’t lift their legs, people with strollers etc. The thing we’re still working towards is universal accessibility, to make things better for people who are visually impaired.” –Jim Dawe


Bus Stops

What’s not so good is that the buses aren’t really accessible. Thirty per cent of bus stops [in Vancouver] are not labeled accessible. If the bus driver can refuse to put the ramp down [because the bus stop isn’t labeled accessible], well that’s not really accessible. That’s why some people don’t take the bus, because they can be refused 30 per cent of the time.”—Jill Weiss

It’s in the outer lying areas where we have the most issues [with accessible bus stops]. You can’t have a landing pad for people if there’s a ditch there. So that’s our last frontier and I think that will outlive all the other things because it involves all the municipalities so it takes a long time to get things right.” –Jim Dawe


When I get on the bus I take up four seats and sometimes you get attitude. What people don’t yet understand is what has been done. The fact that strollers can get on the bus and that there are seats for aging; without disability advocates, a lot of people wouldn’t be in the loop today.

If you’re on the SkyTrain and you’re blocking the doorway and people have to walk around you, people say ‘That’s very inconvenient’. Well yes, it is, but I have no problem doing it. Twenty years ago it was very uncomfortable with all the glares and looks. But the attitudes are evolving in a good way. We’ve come a long way.”—Vivian Garcia

Boarding Practices: Strollers vs. Wheelchairs

When you get on a bus, the bus driver does not always let the person in the wheelchair enter first. If they let 20 people in front of you there’s less of a chance that you’ll be able to get into the right place. It happens a lot with people with strollers. The policy is that the driver is supposed to ask people to hold the child and fold the stroller, but that rarely happens. For the other person, holding their child is an inconvenience but they still get their ride. People in wheelchairs lose their rides.”—Jill Weiss

Curb Cuts

“There aren’t enough curb cuts. It can be dangerous if you end up traveling in the streets. I was going home at 8pm and it was pouring rain and the bus driver wouldn’t let me on at the stop. So I had to wheel down on the street at King Edward and I’m on the street because there’s no curb cut. I nearly go killed so many times.” –Jill Weiss


Handy Dart

HandyDart needs improving. I only use HandyDart when I absolutely have to and the last couple times I’ve tried have been complete disasters both times. You have to call several days in advance. I don’t know why you can’t get it down to just one day in advance. People can’t make plans four or five days in advance for some things. If you want to do something that’s spur-of-the-moment, you can’t use HandyDart at all.

In Ottawa people who use wheelchairs can book their rides during certain hours and have insurance that they can get through because their Para Transpo Service (the equivalent of BC’s HandyDart) includes a certain hour when they take only calls from people who use wheelchairs.” –Vince Miele

The issue with HandyDart is that there’s an inadequate amount of rides. In 2010, HandyDart provided an average of 2.17 round trips per month per active registered user. Of course that’s an average not a limit per person, but it’s not enough transportation for people to live a life.”—Jill Weiss

Private Transportation Services Should be Accessible Too

Private companies shouldn’t be allowed to have services for the general public and not for people who use wheelchairs. Right now for example, I know that none of the hotel shuttle buses that take you to and from the airport have lifts on them. Part of the role [of the government] should be to say that ‘To have this private business license, you have to commit to having an inclusive service.’ I don’t think that it would take much for City Council to say that to a business that wants to operate in this city. They’ve done it with taxis so I don’t know why they can’t do it for other services as well.” –Vince Miele


1. If you see a bus stop that should be accessible, make a complaint.

Jim Dawe suggests you make a dual complaint and call TransLink as well as your municipality to let them know: “We’ll have someone go out and check to make sure, but the municipality is 50/50 responsible for [bus stops]. If you make a dual complaint, that adds a little more pressure to the thing.”

TransLink Customer Relations: 604-953-3040 or click here to do it online.

2. Join Access Transit’s User Advisory Committee

A call for 2013 committee member applications will be made in late summer 2012. Visit Access Transit’s Committee Eligibility Requirements page to see if you’re eligible to become a member.

3. Register for the Bus Stop Hop!

Get to know Metro Vancouver’s public transit system with SCI BC’s annual Bus Stop Hop (BSH) on August 17th. Inspired by the Amazing Race, the BSH is a one-day, team-based event that has participants racing across the city, using accessible transportation, completing fun activities and collecting points. What makes BSH unique is its focus on accessible transit and its team structure: four teammates consisting of two able-bodied people and two people using wheelchairs or mobility aids. Race across the city using public transit, compete to win great prizes and party with SCI BC staff, peers and volunteers over an evening BBQ. For more information and to register click here.

3.  Share your thoughts and photos!

Tell us your thoughts on the comments section of this blog, pipe in on our Facebook page or chat with us on Twitter. We’re all ears.

Together, we can make our province even more accessible.

4. Read the rest of our Accessible Transportation Series


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  • Esteban

    Despite the improvements yet to be made by the work of the people highlighted in this article, we really have to reflect on all of the many positive changes we’ve seen over the years. It wasn’t that long ago when public transit wasn’t accessible at all. Yes there is more to be done, but when you can host an event such as the Bus Hop that highlights just how accessible the public transit system is in Vancouver, it really shows how far we’ve come. And I really like the fact that if you want to get involved in changing things for the better, you can!

  • Elaine Willis

    Accessible isn’t just mobility! Three out of ten people are sensitive to fragrance (BC Lung Association) and the numbers are growing. Chemical sensitivity keeps me off of public transit and off of HandyDarts. Despite a longstanding No fragrance policy on darts, no enforcement means there really is no policy. Accessibility means real service, available service when needed, and service that meets the needs of passengers. HandyDart doesn not allow subsidized fares. The system is more than flawed. It’s broken.

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