Access-A-Bus is Halifax Transit’s most frustrating service

Other cities have figured out improvements for accessible transit options, and Halifax needs to follow suit.

In Oakville, Ontario, passengers can use an app to book the care-A-van service. - FROM OAKVILLE TRANSIT
FROM OAKVILLE TRANSIT
In Oakville, Ontario, passengers can use an app to book the care-A-van service.

Since the onset of chronic pain when I entered my 30s, walking to the bus stop meant suffering before I even got on the bus. I became a client of Access-A-Bus for the second time this spring. I needed a better way to manage my schedule without unnecessary fatigue, and after hearing more positive reviews, decided to re-apply to Access-A-Bus.

The bus is much more convenient than standard Halifax Transit service, because it shows up at your door and drops you off at your destination, and as a client-based service, there are far fewer stops along the way. However, accessibility often comes with complications.

If you need a ride, Transit encourages booking seven days in advance. While important medical appointments can be booked three months ahead, spur-of-the-moment trips are unrealistic, as same-day or day-in-advance bookings are based on a waiting list.

Can you remember the last time you planned more than a day or two ahead? I have to call early on Monday to schedule my bus for the following Monday. (The later it is, the fewer pick-up time options.) Transit passengers who require accessibility have little choice but to sacrifice the spontaneity of catching a bus to wherever we might want to go. There is a subscription service available through Access-A-Bus, but it can be a waiting game.

On the days I have a ride scheduled through Access-A-Bus, I lose valuable time. I once booked the bus for a 9:45am appointment, and due to availability along with the 30-minute pick-up window, the arrival times I was given were anywhere between 8 and 8:30am. I have also been an hour early for work and the last one to leave. It's a far cry from regular transit service, where you have several different bus and route options. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Accessible transit works differently in other provinces. Take Oakville's care-A-van. Working in conjunction with the local taxi service, it has a booking app and a subscription service that can be set up through calling a week before your first regularly scheduled trip. You are only required to be outside waiting 10 minutes ahead of your pick-up time.

HandyDart in Vancouver also books one week in advance, and offers passengers the option to take bookings prior to 4pm the day before their ride. The pick-up window is the same as Access-A-Bus, but also includes reminder calls about your ride the day before and prior to the bus's arrival, allowing for last-minute cancellations as needed.

While larger provinces may have more resources, Halifax has a smaller population, meaning less passenger demand. But Access-A-Bus could at least have its own app to keep track of rides and cut down on waiting times.

Adding more Access-A-Bus buses in Halifax would also make an incredible impact on the availability of accessible transportation, meaning more scheduling flexibility for trips of immediate necessity.

So let's bring back the true meaning of accessible transportation—operating a service that ensures equal benefits for able-bodied and persons with disabilities alike.

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