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New Westminster seniors cheer TransLink decision

Betty Newton and Alma Bjornson organized Thornebridge Gardens residents opposed to TransLink
Betty Newton and Alma Bjornson organized Thornebridge Gardens residents opposed to TransLink's plans to eliminate its TaxiSaver program, a decision it overturned this week.
— image credit: NewsLeader file photo

TransLink's decision Wednesday to abandon its plans to eliminate its TaxiSaver voucher program shows "grey power is alive, well and working," says a Thornebridge Gardens resident who organized a campaign opposed to eliminating the coupons.

Two months ago, TransLink announced it was going to phase out the program in which those who were eligible to use HandyDart could purchase vouchers that would allow them to take taxis at half price. Many seniors have to use take taxis when HandyDart isn't available to them, said Thornebridge resident Betty Newton.

"There's a lot of relief here to hear they've cancelled the cancellation [of the TaxiSaver]," said Newton. "It's extremely important because there's a number of people here who do not use HandyDart at all and use the TaxiSavers solely. Some of them are vision impaired people who are unsteady on their feet and find the TaxiSavers are the only way to go."

Following the original decision, Thornebridge residents let TransLink know about it. Not only did Newton take their concerns to TransLink's annual general meeting when it decided to hold off on implementing the change, the company's access transit manager, Peter Hill, visited Thornebridge to listen to nearly 60 residents give their opinions. Newton said Hill came because they the residents had sent more emails and letters to TransLink on the subject than any other seniors residence in the area.

"He certainly listened to anybody who wanted to take the microphone and put their personal slant on why they needed to keep the TaxiSavers," said Newton. "I don't know if we had a big influence on [the latest decision], but certainly the residents got behind the move to protest and made our thoughts known. Grey power is alive, well and working."

Despite the good news, Newton has some concerns because TransLink board chair Nancy Otewiler said the company was looking into ways to incorporate TaxiSavers with its upcoming rollout of the Compass smart card.

"I am going to be vigilant in watching what happens in another three months or so after the smoke dies down," said Newton. "I don't know about [the Compass card integration] and about how that intends to work."

More than 18,000 HandyDart trip requests were denied last year because the service was oversubscribed, and that's only got worse this year. HandyDart trips require reservations well ahead of time and the service is not available at night, making the TaxiSaver coupons a good option, said Newton.

– with file from Jeff Nagel

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