Advocacy group calls for seniors-only shuttle service

Study results based on questionnaire of 250 Langley seniors between the ages of 60 and 96

A seniors-only shuttle may be the best option for solving seniors’ transportation issues in the Langleys, according to a study conducted by the Langley Seniors Community Action Table (LSCAT).

The study gave a questionnaire to 250 local seniors between the ages of 60 and 96 to determine their transportation habits.

Of the participants — including 83 who live in the City — the majority choose to drive themselves, or they rely on volunteer drivers, who may be family members, friends or affiliated with programs, Kathy Reddington, co-chair of LSCAT told City of Langley council on Nov. 9.

“LSCAT has identified transportation as a priority for advocacy, because it really is critical to every senior support system if he or she is to age in place, remain independent and engage with the community, all which contribute significantly to ongoing good health and general well being,” she said.

The study determined 71 per cent of respondents in the Township, and 49 per cent in the City, drive themselves, with many getting behind the wheel even when they do not want to.

“We think that some of them — even if they have a licence — they don’t want to drive, they actually don’t think they should be driving, but they may not have other options,” Reddington said.

Relying on others to transport them is also not viable, she said. In the City, 66 per cent use volunteer drivers and in the Township, 52 per cent.

“This says to us, they depend heavily on a really unreliable form of transit, where they’re always asking for favours,” Reddington said.

The study found that the majority of seniors are traveling to downtown Langley, Willowbrook Shopping Centre, Langley Memorial Hospital area and the Langley Senior Resources Centre for shopping, health services and community involvement.

Many seniors also choose to walk to these locations, but public transit “does not serve the transportation needs,” Reddington said.

That’s why LSCAT wants to create a designated shuttle service, which all but one of the respondents said they would pay a fee for.

“We can see a real high density of seniors, both in the City and in the Township, and when you look at that high density it goes along with very low incomes and, at times, very bad access to transit,” Reddington said.

“So that was the context for us to put the questionnaire together. We have people telling us they’d like a shuttle, so the question was, would you use one if it was available?

“They see it being the thing that can take them from place to place with more ease, with less fear in terms of where they have to wait for a bus, or the fact that there isn’t someone to assist them getting on to that bus.

“There are a number of other issues, like the bus and SkyTrain don’t go where I want to go, or the time it takes is too long, and there’s no access to washrooms while I’m away — a number of reasons why.”

Councillor Rudy Storteboom asked if expanding HandyDART services could be a solution instead, but Reddington believes a separate service is more valuable.

“I think the HandyDART conundrum is one that so many people have experienced in terms of how far ahead they have to book, how long a day they have to spend waiting for HandyDART to come back and pick them up, and it’s really becoming a medical-based form of transportation,” Reddington said.

“It is not seen as something that should take an isolated senior to a community event.

“It is seen as something that should take somebody who is sick to an appointment they need to go to.

“And I can understand that — that’s the priority.

“This (shuttle) is in addition to that. This is strictly grassroots, community based, what can we do for this density of seniors that needs an easier way to get around.”