Regional district staff have been directed to create a bylaw that will make it possible to create a taxi-saver program for low-income seniors and people with disabilities in Area B (Gabriola, Mudge and De Courcy Islands).
The bylaw will most likely be submitted for approval by Area B residents in 2013, according to the recommendations of a staff report on the feasibility of establishing a taxi-saver program on Gabriola. The report was presented to regional directors at Tuesday’s Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) board meeting, at the RDN board room in Nanaimo.
As previously reported, Regional Director Howard Houle asked staff to look into the feasibility of such a program after a meeting about seniors’ issues sponsored by MP Jean Crowder, and MLA Doug Routley. Lack of transportation for low-income and disabled seniors was one of the issues raised at that meeting.
BC Transit – the body that runs most BC taxi-saver programs – said that the program has to be attached to a HandyDART service. To institute such a service on Gabriola, however, would cost about $75,000 and would not even include a regular bus service, according to Houle. Tuesday’s staff report added: “Even if the current RDN HandyDART service was expanded to include Electoral Area B, it would not be able to accommodate low-income seniors, which was the original intent of the board motion”.
The report proposes instead that a stand-alone program be created and that it be administered by a Gabriolan commission in a similar manner to the Gabriola Recreation Society. It expects the program will cost between $5,000 and $10,000 annually (up to approximately 80 cents per $100,000 of property values). The costs for canvassing taxpayer approval of the program, it says, will be between $5,000 and $15,000 depending on whether that canvass is via the alternate approval/counter petition process, or referendum.
The proposed program will allow eligible Gabriolans to buy $60 worth of Gabriola Taxi coupons for $30 every three months. Houle said eligibility will be based on a means test, and on a needs assessment used by the HandyDART program.
Staff also note that the proposed program is not included in this year’s budget, so recommended “that the service not be submitted for voter assent until 2013. If the service is not supported by the electoral area, the costs incurred would be recovered from the taxpayers in Electoral Area B in 2013”.
The report also notes that although the start-up costs for the program “are significant, compared to the level of service Electoral Area B would initially receive” – especially given that BC Transit will not be chipping in – staff recommend the board proceed with the program “as it will address an unmet need in the community for residents who have limited access to transit”.
Regional Director Brian Dempsey asked if Mudge Islanders could also use this service. Houle said he didn’t see why not.
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