It looks like life, and public transit, will be getting back to something like normal by next fall. Ridership is likely to start picking up in the summer, as vulnerable people and medical workers get vaccinations.
Meanwhile HandyDART vehicle operators continue to have a COVID gun to their heads. These workers are not recognised as “front line workers.” They cannot avoid close proximity to clients. Masks are frequently not worn by clients due to medical needs.
HandyDART workers remain undervalued. Their lives are at risk. These hard working men and women need to be recognised as health workers.
Public transit will play a crucial role in ensuring people can return to work, education, and health care programs. HandyDART (paratransit) service for seniors and people with disabilities will be critical to the health and quality of life of our most vulnerable citizens, as well as the functioning of the health care system.
If public transit does not receive federal operating support in the short- and long-term, the most vulnerable in our society will face the brunt of service reductions.
It is past time for the federal government to start rebuilding society with permanent transit operating funding, including targeted funding for HandyDART and other paratransit services. HandyDART has often been referred to as “too expensive” but the cost of continued underfunding would be much higher.
Mark Beeching, president ATU local 1724, Langley
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