Lethbridge’s Access-A-Ride program offers a valuable service for local residents with mobility challenges who are unable to use the regular transit system.
But the demand is so heavy during the peak morning period that there’s little ride capacity left for occasional users.
That was the information presented to city council on Monday by Lethbridge Transit manager Audra McKinley.
McKinley explained the shared-ride service has 21 vehicles, though two of them are typically in for servicing during peak times while a third is kept on standby in the event of a breakdown by one of the other handi-bus vehicles.
Most of Access-A-Ride’s rush-hour passengers are “subscription customers,” council was told, leaving little space for occasional “demand” bookings.
In the past, complaints about handi-bus ride availability in Letters to the Editor featured on The Herald’s pages suggested the city needed to provide more buses. But from the information presented to council on Monday, it appears part of the problem might be some of the riders themselves.
McKinley said the Access-A-Ride service level is affected by “no show” customers as well as those who cancel rides on short notice. That amounts to about 13 per cent of scheduled rides being scrubbed each day, which translates to 50 or 60 rides daily that someone else could have used.
Rather than suspending service to people who frequently cancel rides or don’t show up, transit officials opt for a softer approach that involves sending a letter requesting more co-operation from the riders.
But maybe Lethbridge Transit should get tougher on chronic offenders — perhaps instituting some sort of fine, or dropping them for a specified period from their regularly booked time slot. McKinley’s report to council indicated that there’s a big demand for the Access-A-Ride service, with 3,580 handi-bus customers in Lethbridge (compared with 2,064 in Red Deer). With such demand, ride time slots can’t be wasted and riders who fail to show or who don’t cancel with sufficient notice are disrespecting the many other riders who are in need of the service.
Lethbridge Transit is working to assist higher-mobility handi-bus clients in being able to use regular transit buses, such as offering a one-on-one rider training service. That will help reduce the demand for handi-bus service, but riders can do their part, too, by showing respect for the service and for other riders.