Rocky View Regional Handibus is being praised for its efforts to serve a greater segment of the community.
The organization’s general manger Paul Stiller was invited to speak at this year’s Canadian Urban Transit Association’s (CUBA) annual conference, in Ottawa, May 17-19.
“It was really cool to find out that what we do is breaking new ground and being asked to talk about it,” said Stiller.
Since 2004, Rocky View’s Handibus, a 10-bus operation that covers north and east portions of Rocky View as well as Chestermere and Langdon, has expanded its definition of what it means to be disabled.
That broadened definition has set the organization apart from other similar operations.
According to Stiller, when the general public thinks about who needs the services of a Handibus, they think of seniors who don’t drive or people with a disability. He says those views need to change.
“People don’t think about the woman trying to escape a violent situation at home, who can’t get to the shelter because her husband took the car; or the child who has to temporarily move into foster care and can’t get to the same school; or the unemployed person who needs to get to the food bank. To us, these are also disabilities,” said Stiller.
The organization, a rural charity, has been in operation since 1980 and provides transportation, to everything from doctor’s appointments to grocery store trips, for people in need.
Rocky View Handibus is funded partially by Rocky View County, as well as donations and contract work. The remaining portion, about 20 per cent, comes from passenger fees.
Passengers pay about a quarter of what they would for a taxi.
Although only about 10-15 per cent of Rocky View Handibus’s passengers fall into the expanded category, the service is vital to those that use it.
“The people who are using it, some of them are in kind of desperate circumstances,” said Stiller.
Each request is handled on a one-on-one basis and not every one can be accommodated.
Stiller was surprised that other organizations are not attempting similar solutions. He hopes his ideas can be used in other communities.
“It has been talked about before, but we are actually trying it,” said Stiller. “We are discovering the pitfalls… this is kind of new ground for people.”