TransLink is not moving ahead with plans to cancel its TaxiSaver program at this point but that isn't enough for a local program user.
Lilo Ljubisic, a Burnaby resident who is blind and uses HandyDart and the TaxiSaver program, spoke with the NOW when the cancellation was announced last month.
TransLink is meeting with stakeholders to discuss the issues and effects of possibly cutting the program, but Ljubisic says the company should step away from the plan altogether and look at other cost saving measures.
"Quite honestly, what more do you need?" she said. "How many more arguments from how many more marginalized and disabled people in Vancouver and British Columbia do you need to tell you that you're on the wrong path?"
Since the cancellation was announced in May, seniors and people with disabilities in B.C. have been speaking to the media about the importance of the program, she pointed out.
"To me, it's almost an insult," she said, regarding the current consultation process. "I just don't know what else they want."
The approximately $1 million TransLink would save in next year's budget by cutting the program is not enough to greatly affect the company's financial situation, Ljubisic said, particularly as the program is subsidized by the user for half the cost whereas, HandyDart is not.
"It simply doesn't make any financial sense to most people," she added.
The TaxiSaver service provides users with $100 worth of taxi coupons per month, with the user paying half the cost and TransLink covering the other half.
The program has run for 20 years for those with cognitive or physical disabilities, and was going to be phased out, beginning in August and ending by June 2013.
TransLink said in a press release last month that the HandyDart system currently uses taxis if a HandyDart vehicle "is not readily available and client care is not compromised."
The company would look at directing some of the funding previously allocated for the TaxiSaver program into this option, thre release added.
But Ljubisic said she has never been offered a taxi when she called for a HandyDart and it wasn't available.
"I have heard this," she said of the option. "For me, it's a myth. I have yet to meet a person who has been sent a taxi."
Two weeks ago, Ljubisic called HandyDart with six trip requests a week in advance, and could only have two of the requests met, she said.
Ljubisic said she asked if a taxi could be sent instead and was told, "Oh no, we don't do that."
Ljubisic is currently out of the country and missed the annual general meeting where TransLink announced it wouldn't be cutting the program at this time.
But she is a member of the HandyDart users' group with the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities, she said, and will stay involved in the issue.
"I will continue to fight as effectively as I can," she added.
TransLink is meeting with stakeholders to discuss their needs and began that process at the meeting, according to Jason Martin, manager of corporate communications for the company.
"We recognized the need to listen to the concerns that the stakeholders brought forward," he said. "We are committed to seeing it through and giving it as much time as it needs."
TransLink expects to save $1.1 million per year for the next three years if the program is cancelled, according to a company press release. The money would be used to expand the HandyDart program.
For the first year, $200,000 would be put into the supplemental taxi service, the release stated.
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