By Roger Belgrave
TransHelp celebrated 35 years of providing transportation to Peel’s disabled residents this month. This man thought it fitting to take a photograph of the 35-year journey told in pictures. (Visit the link at bottom for more pictures)
As TransHelp prepares for a major system change in the new year, the transportation service for Peel residents with disabilities celebrated 35 years in operation this month.
In 1981, when Peel Region took over the service from a not-for-profit, there were six full-time drivers and two part-time drivers operating six modified buses.
They were making between 4,800 to 6,000 trips a year on an operating budget in the neighbourhood of $337,000.
Today, the organization has more than 100 employees, makes in excess of 500,000 trips a year and operates seven days a week on a budget of about $19 million.
A fleet of almost 70 buses and contracted transportation providers serve a client list that has reached 17,000 and is expected to grow.
There is a six to eight per cent annual growth in ridership, according to Transit Manager Mark Castro.
TransHelp must make client eligibility changes by Jan. 1, 2017 to comply with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requirements that come into force in the new year.
The changes are expected to contribute to significant client and cost increases. Both are forecasted to quadruple by 2031.
TransHelp users must currently be physically disabled persons who are unable to take conventional transit and require the support of a mobility aid.
This current eligibility mandate does not provide service to persons with cognitive disabilities, visual impairments, sensory disabilities and other conditions.
However, a new set of eligibility criteria is being established to meet an expanded definition of disability as defined by the Human Rights Tribunal.
There are physical, mental, learning, hearing or vision disabilities and other conditions recognized under the Human Rights Code as disabilities.
Residents currently not eligible for TransHelp service may become eligible and some current users, who could use conventional transit if certain barriers are removed, could possibly lose access to the service.
A client recertification process is set to get underway.
A big part of the future plan for TransHelp is to integrate the service and clients with conventional transit, explained Castro.
“Our focus will be supporting our riders so they feel comfortable using the regular transit,” he said.
Roger Belgrave is a reporter with the Brampton Guardian and Mississauga News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org