One particular segment of the population that utterly relies on public transit are people living with disabilities. From Handy Darts to buses to SkyTrains, people with disabilities depend not only on accessible public transit for themselves but it also enables our caregivers to get to our homes to help us in our daily lives.
When a transit strike seems to have become inevitable, people living at home with a disability are getting seriously worried. Of course, workers who are providing public transport services need to be able to ask for fair wages, have the right to ask their employer to find a solution for overcrowded vehicles, question insufficient time allocations to get from one route to another. And it is also understandable that the BC government is trying to run TransLink in a way that it believes is the best and most reasonable way of using our taxes. People with disabilities are not stuck in the middle; we are actually STUCK.
While no “imminent disruption to service” is expected at this time, and the union is required to give 72 hours-notice according to a CBC report, the deteriorating situation does not provide any ease of mind to people depending on their care workers to arrive in the morning via public transit.
For people living at home with a disability, reliable public transport is a vital and essential service. Without transit service, it may be impossible for caregivers to find transportation to their clients’ residences. And without a doubt, some people’s lives may be in danger.
A second concern, for everyone, is the need to fight climate change. One way to get closer to a sustainable environment is for people to use public transit. In the Lower Mainland we have been moving in the right direction; according to a TransLink statistic “ridership on bus, SeaBus, SkyTrain and West Coast Express has grown from around 230 million boardings in 2000 to 436 million in 2018.” Bicycles are not an option for everyone, so, how can we ask people to give up their commute by car if the available transit service could be shut down at any moment?
With the growing awareness that we have to change the way we live in this world, the need to transport people to work, to school, to hospitals, to restaurants, and countless other places, is paramount. This is the time we need to find the way to build a build a vibrant, productive, and competitive economy. Or as written in a letter by the Ministry of municipal affairs and housing in 2008, our future has to be “strong, sustainable and innovative.” This is a time to build not argue.
I urge any reader to act. Contact TransLink, contact your municipal government, contact your provincial government! Let them know your concerns. A mechanism needs to be established so negotiations between workers and employer happen well ahead of crunch time, so that nobody has to be put in a dangerous position. Nor should anyone be deprived of a decent livelihood nor work in unacceptable working conditions.
Step up and make your voice heard!