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11Aug

No access: what happens to transit users with disabilities when the elevators aren’t working | CBC News

by admin

Port Moody resident Micaela Evans takes the SkyTrain and the West Coast Express commuter train everyday to get to her job in Vancouver as a communications coordinator at a non-profit that helps people with spinal cord injuries.

Typically, Evans’ daily commute to the Spinal Cord Injury BC office in South Vancouver takes her just over an hour each way.

Evans, 24, uses an electric wheelchair, so if an elevator breaks down at a SkyTrain station, or is undergoing maintenance, the delay can add an extra half hour each way to her commute. Sometimes, these elevator outages can occur several times a month.

“I have a job like anyone else, I just want to be able to get to work and be there on time,” Evans said in a phone interview.

 

She isn’t the only disabled person who has faced delays when an elevator is out of service at a SkyTrain station. Justina Loh, executive director of Disability Alliance B.C., said other people who rely on elevators because they have disabilities have complained about delays when an elevator is out of commission.

At times, Loh said staff and volunteers have arrived late for work because they’ve had to wait or because they’ve had to reroute themselves to get to work in a different way. 

“I would say it’s a pretty big issue,” Loh said.

Evans, who said she thinks TransLink’s overall service is good, said the company posts alerts on their website and Twitter to warn users when an elevator will be under maintenance. But she says the wording of these alerts are vague and puts the onus on the person with the disability to figure out a Plan B.

“They just kind of expect you to figure out how the heck you’re going to get to the next successful station,” Evans said. 

She said she’d like to see more support staff at stations to provide help, adding she’s noticed a reduction in services.

2-train commute

Each work day, Evans boards the West Coast Express at Moody Centre Station and disembarks at Waterfront. She then transfers to SkyTrain’s Canada Line and takes the train to Marine Drive station. 

She has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that affects the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement.

Micaela Evans, pictured here, says when the elevators break down or are under maintenance, it can add an extra half hour each way to her commute. (Micaela Evans )

TransLink spokesperson, Jill Drews said when the transit authority has scheduled elevator maintenance at one of its SkyTrain stations, it attempts to provide users with a minimum notice of three days, which it relays through tweets and on its website.

If a customer arrives at a station and isn’t aware of the outage, they can request a TransLink assistant to call a taxi, which will take them to the next station with a working elevator.

Regular elevator maintenance is necessary, Drews said. Under B.C. safety regulations, TransLink must inspect each elevator in the system once a month. There’s also a yearly inspection that’s more in-depth and can take multiple days. 

“You can imagine how catastrophic it could be if a fault, you know, trapped a customer or led to injury. That’s just not something we can risk,” Drews said. 

Loh pointed out TransLink was one of the first systems to implement the Universal Fare Gate program which uses sensors so people who can’t physically tap a Compass Card can have the fare gates open for them. 

Elevator sign at Granville Skytrain Station in Vancouver. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

But, Loh said there are still barriers for people with disabilities when it comes to taking public transportation. 

“I would say, one, it’s either just too congested, and there’s a lack of understanding and empathy from other transit users,” Loh said.

Drews said TransLink’s policy states it must have to have an attendant present when the only critical elevator to access the platform is out for maintenance or repairs. She also said the company tries to schedule maintenance during non-peak hours but there’s an industry shortage of qualified elevator technicians. 

Drews said TransLink isn’t able to offer as much money as other companies, so in order to stay competitive, it schedules technicians during daytime, meaning the work is conducted during commuting hours.

30May

Bike lanes to nowhere: Fraser Valley communities working to create cycling networks

by admin

It’s GoByBike week in B.C. But in Mission, most go by car.

A “pop-up” bike lane along 7th Avenue appears to be doing little to change that, as it was almost deserted Thursday afternoon.

“It’s just a pain,” said Michelle Leggett as she walked her six-year-old daughter Madeline Lutz home from school. “I think I’ve seen four bikers all week, and I’m pretty sure they’re regulars.”


Michelle Leggett and daughter Madeline Lutz.

Francis Georgian /

PNG

To create the lane, city staff closed one side of the street to parking from Monday to Friday. As a result, the side streets around the high school have been overwhelmed with parents dropping off their kids.

“We’re just too far out here,” said Leggett. “People commute to Vancouver or Burnaby, and they need a car.”

But despite public reluctance, bike lanes are being built in some of B.C.’s most car-centric communities. Earlier this week, the provincial government announced $10 million in cycling infrastructure funding across the province. It will be up to municipalities to change public perception — and tackle the challenges that come along with building a cycling network in the suburbs.

Mission’s pop-up bike lane is part of that. Council has already approved a permanent bike lane along 7th Avenue, and the temporary lane is designed to increase public engagement and gauge public reaction to the idea, said  Mission Community Cycling Coalition member Rocky Blondin.

“The design work on a permanent bike lane will be informed by what happens this week,” said Blondin, who is president of the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association.

The lane’s usage was “modest” at the start of the week, but seems to be increasing as people realize there is another option to get to school or the recreation centre. It’s the city’s first east-to-west bike lane and its first protected bike lane.

“It takes time for people to start thinking differently,” said Blondin.

Related

There are several challenges to increasing cycling in the Fraser Valley, according to advocates. While the number of bike lanes in cities outside Vancouver is increasing, many communities still lack a comprehensive network that can safely and efficiently take cyclists where they want to go.

“The strength in Vancouver is in a cycling network that’s connected and can get people from Point A to B,” said Erin O’Melinn, executive director of non-profit advocacy group, HUB Cycling. “The Fraser Valley is not yet at that point.”

Unused bike lanes give critics fodder for their fight against more cycling infrastructure during public consultation on the issue, she said.

“But cities need to understand that you can’t build a north-to-south route and expect it to be used. You need east-to-west too. The network is the game-changer.”

Some Fraser Valley cities are also challenged by the fact that their main roads are highways. Many cyclists aren’t comfortable biking on the shoulder of King George Highway or Lougheed Highway. Side roads often end in cul-de-sacs.


The “pop-up” bike lane along 7th Avenue in Mission.

Francis Georgian /

PNG

In Mission, where up to 70 per cent of residents leave town for work, it’s difficult to increase bicycle commuting when people must travel long distances.

But O’Melinn said progress is being made. With funding contributions from other levels of government, many cities are beginning to create cycling infrastructure, which remains cheap compared to other transportation options.

Surrey, in particular, has made significant strides in connecting its downtown core, she said, although the municipality’s size presents a challenge for linking the entire community.

Abbotsford signalled its intentions to make cycling a priority earlier this year with a new pedestrian and cycling bridge over Highway 1 connecting the University of the Fraser Valley to a main thoroughfare. The bridge is adorned with dozens of recycled aluminum bike wheels.

Related

Elsewhere in the Fraser Valley, progress on bike lanes is “hit and miss,” said University of the Fraser Valley urban geography professor John Belec. “It depends on the interest of each particular council to move forward on it.”

There is also significant backlash from a segment of the population that believes “roads are primarily for cars, and as a public space, cars have priority,” he said.

While councils may not be able to push through a comprehensive bike network all at once, many are beginning to lay the groundwork and put small segments in place.

“It takes courage and energy — and a faith that they will be used,” said Belec.

In Chilliwack, cycling advocates are working to fill in the “gaps on the map,” said David Swankey, co-chair of Cycle Chilliwack. Using a rail corridor that loops through the community, the challenge is to develop clear and safe routes from there. The city is still working to determine what those routes will look like.

Swankey said advocates want to see routes that are accessible and safe for everyone, including seniors and kids on their way to school, which would increase their use.

“It’s an ongoing to process to see how it will roll out in the years to come,” he said.

Related

BikeBC funding

Earlier this week, the provincial government announced $10 million in funding for cycling infrastructure projects across B.C. Municipalities must apply for the grants, which cover between 50 to 75 per cent of project costs, depending on population.

The BikeBC money helps communities pay for new bikeways, or improve safety and accessibility on existing pathways.

Several cities on the South Coast received funding for 2019-20, including:

• The City of Abbotsford is approved to receive $299,685 for a separated two-way cycle track connecting elementary, middle and high schools to the recreation centre, library and the Discovery Trail.

• The City of Chilliwack is approved to receive $437,263 to extend a separated pathway between Airport Road and Hocking Avenue on the Valley Rail Trail, providing a north-south connection for all ages and abilities.

• The City of North Vancouver is approved to receive $1 million toward the Casano-Loutet cycling and pedestrian bridge over Highway 1.

• The City of Pemberton is approved to receive $7,500 to develop a cycling network plan that addresses active transportation within the community.

• The District of Squamish is approved to receive $210,450 for upgrades to the Dentville section of the Discovery Trail, which will include a separated paved path with lighting.

• The City of Vancouver is approved to receive $150,925 for cycling and pedestrian safety improvements at the 800 Robson Street Permanent Plaza.

• The City of Vancouver is also approved to receive $1 million for upgrades to the downtown bike network.

• The District of West Vancouver is approved to receive $50,700 for separated bike lanes between the districts of West Vancouver and North Vancouver.

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