Monday, June 01, 2009

Carstairs discontinues Handibus service

Town discontinues Handibus service
Mark Laycock, Carstairs Courier

May 26, 2009

The Town of Carstairs has sold the Handibus and relinquished its services, citing low usage of the vehicle as the reason for its discontinuation.

The town sold the vehicle for $2,000 in February after it was determined the 1985 vehicle was too old and needed to be replaced. CAO Carl McDonnell explains that it wasn’t worth the cost to purchase a newer vehicle because the existing Handibus wasn’t being used often enough.

In its place McDonnell says the town will provide other means of transportation for seniors such as the Volunteer Driver’s Program, which is run through the Carstairs Community Resource Centre. The program uses drivers who volunteer their vehicle and time to drive seniors to required destinations such as a doctor’s appointment in Didsbury or Calgary.

He adds that the town may look into utilizing transportation programs from surrounding communities, and can also subsidize seniors for the cost of utilizing a taxi service if needed.

"If they’re looking at something very specific and routine then we have to look at other agencies or hiring the taxi to do that, but it really depends on what they’re looking at," says McDonnell.

The Handibus program originally started in 1986 when the bus would transport seniors to the Didsbury hospital twice a week and would make trips to Olds and Airdrie as well as in town on Fridays.

"So there was quite a bit of use at that time, but in the last three or four years we’ve got down to primarily just Friday runs."

Riders would typically pay about $2 or $3 to ride, but McDonnell says that with only a handful of riders it didn’t make subsidizing and running the bus viable.

However, Kathy Westlund and Ronda Navrot from the Chinook Winds Lodge are expressing concern with the bus being decommissioned and are now scrambling to find other modes of transportation for their residents.

"We don’t want our seniors to have to stay right here all summer, that’s not an option, so we’ll just have to problem solve and do the best we can to take them out as much as we can," says Westlund.

Both McDonnell and Westlund said that the bus was offered to the lodge some time ago, but Westlund says that it was simply too expensive for the lodge to run without subsidies from the town.

"Our organization could have ran it but we couldn’t really offer a service to the community because we just couldn’t handle subsidizing the bus."

Westlund adds that another problem with eliminating the bus is that cars and vans are typically not big enough to handle groups of people that also have walkers and other assistance devices.

"CRCC volunteers are certainly a great service and are helping to fill some of the void, but they can’t take people shopping and take us on trips, there just isn’t enough."

In the meantime, seniors in need of transportation can call CCRC at 403-337-2633 to arrange a mode of transportation. The Didsbury Hospital Adult Day Support program offers a bus that will pick up Carstairs seniors every Monday and Thursday for the program. Program co-ordinators can be reached at 403-556-3132.