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No car? No problem for North Shore seniors
While many of us make plans to retire from work, fewer of us think about retiring from driving.
Whether it’s for health, financial or environmental reasons, when we hang up the car keys for good, it doesn’t mean an end to freedom.
The North Shore has many options for seniors to get where they want to go without having to drive there.
Public transit is one way to get around. For those who would like an orientation, TransLink offers TravelSmart Seniors seminars that offer practical information for navigating the system.
The seminars can be booked for a group or an individual, and cover topics such as boarding and exiting a bus with mobility aids. TransLink’s Access Department also takes groups on excursions aboard the busses for practical and interactive sessions.
To book a group or individual session contact the Access Department at 604-453-4587. Those unable to attend a seminar can borrow a copy of Access Transit – Getting Around Metro Vancouver, available in North Vancouver libraries.
HandiDART is TransLink’s door-to-door service for people whose health or mobility prevents them from using regular public transit.
The small blue, yellow and white buses accommodate wheelchairs and are fitted with motorized lifts. To use the service, passengers must complete an application available on the TransLink website, www.translink.ca, or by request at 778-452-2860.
Once registered, riders are set to begin booking their HandiDART trips. Rides can be reserved on a regular or as needed basis. The cost of a trip is the same as a full adult fare on regular public transit and, like regular transit, is determined by the number of zones travelled. A monthly FareCard, $46 for unlimited travel within one zone, can be worthwhile for those who use the system regularly. FareSaver tickets also make trips less costly and are a good option for those who use transit intermittently.
Travellers who qualify for a HandyCard can purchase a $25 book of Taxi Saver Coupons, which will cover $50 worth of taxi rides. The coupons can come in handy if, for any reason, passengers do miss their HandiDART ride and need a way to get home. To purchase tickets contact the Access Transit office at 778-452-2860.
Linda McGowan, consumer advocacy manager at MVT Canadian Bus Inc., has some tips for getting the most from the HandiDART service. She points out riders may bring along an attendant free of charge as long as a seat has been booked for them. Children may also travel with HandiDART passengers as long as the accompanying adult provides the appropriate car seat, which the driver will secure and remove on arrival.
Ms. McGowan, who uses a motorized wheelchair and travels extensively on HandiDART, says she appreciates HandiDART’s automatically generated reminder calls. Passengers receive a call the day before their booked trip, and they can request an Imminent Arrival call, which goes out 10 minutes before the HandiDART bus is due to arrive. She says this gives her time to get her things together and be ready to go.
Ms. McGowan points out that HandiDART operators are not required to help passengers up and down stairs or to carry packages. But they will drop passengers off at points which are most accessible – in other words, no one would be left at the bottom of a steep stair case.
One drawback of the HandyDART system is that if you miss your bus, unlike the regular bus system, another one will not be coming along. Drivers are instructed to wait five minutes and then carry on to their next stop. For this reason, it’s a good idea to allow plenty of time before and after appointments.
North Shore seniors have a number of community shuttle services that also help them get around. Silver Harbour Centre’s Go Bus runs Monday to Wednesday, taking passengers to appointments, shopping and recreational locations on the North Shore. The service is free, but donations are appreciated. To book a ride, call John McCann at 778-230-1852.
Capilano Community Services Society’s Seniors’ Hub provides outreach programs for their members who have mobility problems or need some assistance shopping. The Seniors’ Hub organizes social excursions to North Shore malls and grocery stores, picking up seniors at their homes and returning them. These trips are not only a great way to get the shopping done, but they also provide an opportunity to meet others in the community. To join the Seniors’ Hub and find out about the Hub Bus, phone Miki at 604-988-7115.
The Seniors’ Shuttle Bus operates out of the West Vancouver Seniors Activity Center with two routes in West Vancouver, running from 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Monday to Friday. To board the bus, seniors simply flag it down at any point along its route. The cost is by donation. To find out more, contact the centre at 604-925-7280 or visit their website at westvancouver.ca/seniors.
Parkgate Community Services and Mount Seymour United Church operate the Seymour Access Bus which takes seniors shopping to Lynn Valley Mall on Fridays. The service, which picks up seniors up at their homes and returns them there, is free. To reserve a seat call coordinator Jennifer Dibnah at 604-983-6354.
In its long running service, the Canadian Cancer Society arranges volunteer drivers for those who need transportation to cancer treatments. To arrange a ride, call them at 604-215-5462 two business days in advance.
Some private care companies provide caregivers who will transport clients from place to place. Unlike HandiDART, which is strictly a door-to-door service, staff with private services can go into the home and help clients get ready for their appointments, assist them to the vehicle and transport them.
Adjusting to life without a car may take a little time, but it can be an opportunity to venture out into the community and meet others who are travelling the same road.
Next month: The bus lane and beyond – active seniors navigate the North Shore.
Josie Padro is a member of the North Shore Caregiver Support Project.