Transportation Planning for an Aging Population in Metro Vancouver: An Assessment of the North Shore Seniors Go Bus Program Fitzgerald, Megan
This study strives to answer two main questions: (a) What is Go Bus? and (b) is Go Bus a type of service that TransLink should offer? North Seniors Go Bus is a door-to-door transportation service for seniors. The driver provides assistance with getting to and from the vehicle, carrying parcels and transporting mobility devices. From an operational standpoint, the service is perhaps best characterized as a demand-responsive shuttle with a set of destinations rather than a fixed route. Unlike conventional public transit, the service has the flexibility to deviate from its route to pick up clients at their homes. While there is some overlap with HandyDART, Go Bus tends to be more oriented towards recreational outings and shopping trips, whereas HandyDART has a policy of prioritizing medical- and work-related travel. Thus, Go Bus acts as a lifeline to the physical, emotional, and social well-being of elderly seniors who are either afraid or unable to use conventional transit. Focus group participants had an overwhelming appreciation for Go Bus whether they used the service or not. As one of the focus group participants put it: The thing is we’re getting older. Right now, I’m 95 and in a few years, I’m not going to be able to get on and off a bus. If there’s something like the Go Bus around for us, I’d still be able to get places. Ridership statistics, performance measures and survey results—plus the fact that service is still in operation three years later—further confirms the shuttle’s success. From a policy perspective, funding Go Bus-like supplemental transportation programs poses a number of challenges, including significant legal barriers. Under the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act (2007), funding independent transit services (such as Go Bus) is currently disallowed and would thus require legislative amendments. Other policy alternatives discussed with this report include implementing a customer service strategy, providing a new transit service targeting seniors and maintaining current service levels (i.e., “do nothing”). This study argues that the “do nothing” approach is a set up for failure—not a longterm mobility strategy. While significant improvements to accessibility have been made, the sheer number of elderly seniors, many of whom will have mobility impairments restricting their use of conventional transit, is bound to overwhelm custom transit system. Further development and analysis of the proposed and/or new policy alternatives is recommended. Ultimately, improving seniors’ transportation is more than just a matter of selecting one option over another. Non-driving seniors need a wide range of travel options to live full and active lives.
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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International