Transit Plus riders say they are being left stranded, advocates calling for change in service

Users of the City of Winnipeg’s Transit Plus system say due to drivers not coming to their doors they’re being stranded around the city. Joanne Roberts has the story.

Many people using Transit Plus say they’re left stranded in the city, due to drivers not following protocols around their disability. Users and advocates are calling for change to help close the gaps in its service.

“I call and they say the drivers have come to my door and that I’ve been a no-show … but no one has come to my door.” Anne Loewen, transit plus user.

Loewen is visually impaired and has been using Transit Plus for the last six years. She says she’s had no major issues until January this year, though her experience overall has been mixed.

“Sometimes I can’t read the addresses of places where I’m going, but also going through downtown, I’m no longer comfortable changing busses.”

“I always open by saying, I’m grateful for the service. But, they need to do their job to look after people who are depending on them to get to places,” she explained.

Loewen says in her file with Transit Plus, it asks drivers to come to her side door and ring the bell. As recent as last week, Loewen says drivers have not been coming to her door and letting her know they’re there — and they leave.

She says she’s been in touch with Transit Plus, Councillor Cindy Gilroy, and local advocacy groups multiple times for months, trying to solve the issue, but nothing so far has worked.

The sign on Anne Loewen’s front door asking drivers to use the side door (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

“I feel for the most part I’ve been dismissed … and they say they’re going to work on their issues but yet it keeps happening time after time,” she explained.

Loewen says it also happens when she’s booked for transportation home. She says she’s been left stranded at a personal care home. Last week Transit Plus said she was a no-show.

“I go visit my mom once a week and it was sort of disappointing not to be able to go.”

A Winnipeg Transit Plus vehicle. (Photo Credit: Steve Anderson, CityNews)

Loewen says this is what typically happens when Transit Plus doesn’t come to her door, her plans fall through and she has to try and reschedule. Although she does have access to other transportation through friends, she prefers using Transit Plus.

“Being an independent person, I don’t like to rely on other people.”

Melissa Graham is the executive director of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities. She says many users have been experiencing the same issues for a long time.

Melissa Graham, Transit Plus user and executive director of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

“We’re in a time where it’s hard to find services, transit is not always a service that we value and para-transit systems across the country have their struggles,” explained Graham.

“If you have an appointment or if you have a job to get to or if you have something else that’s really important in your time, your day is now abandoned.”

Graham thinks a short-term way to help close the gaps in Transit Plus service is to begin communicating with the community about its specific needs.

“There is a value to having people with disabilities involved and providing meaningful input into how our para-transit system should be run.”

Long-term, however, Graham is hoping more people with disabilities are involved with how Transit Plus is run.

“I think we would have a much more robust transit system that actually shows that it cares about its customers,” said Graham.

“I think there needs to be a bit of a cultural shift of understanding that people with disabilities, we don’t just want to be passive users of the system. This was a system that was brought about because organizations like MLPD advocated for it to exist in the first place.”

Transit Plus bus. (Photo Credit: Steve Anderson, CityNews)

Gilroy said in an email statement to CityNews she’s been in contact with Loewen and has help by advocating for better service. although Transit Plus is not under her purview she will continue to advocate on improvement to the service as issues arise.

The City of Winnipeg said in an email statement, “Winnipeg Transit Plus investigates and takes all reports of driver misconduct very seriously. The undertaken process includes engaging in comprehensive discussions with the customer, driver, and contractor. Additionally, in situations where necessary, a thorough examination of video evidence is conducted to discern the appropriate course of action.

“The Winnipeg Transit Plus team of inspectors works under the guidance of the Operations Supervisor to investigate all reported incidents relating to driver conduct. We maintain an open line of communication with customers while addressing issues as they arise.”

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