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June 4 Update: Disabled Transportation Society

Today was Council’s first meeting since first learning that the Disabled Transportation Society (DTS) is no longer projecting it has enough funding to finish the year. You can read some background information at www.bressey.ca/meetings/2019/june4pre

Dozens of people came to address Council. They included DTS users, family members of users, healthcare and social workers, and DTS drivers.

Many had heartbreaking stories about the emotional impact of having transportation suddenly cut off.

Several offered to help, including one college student wishing there were fundraising opportunities available for her.

A few had great questions. I think Council appreciated getting to answer them directly. These included what changes have occurred to City funding of DTS, why DTS is its own organisation instead of a City department, and what our next steps will be.

Lots of users expressed how awesome their DTS drivers are.

There was a tonne of frustration, fear, and sadness. Understandably, I also sensed some anger. But no one seemed interested in figuring out who to blame. Instead, the crowd was focused on finding solutions. Council and DTS need to follow this example as we work together to figure out “what next?”

It is obvious that Council needs to take action to solve this crisis. This meeting was our first chance to formally do so. We passed four motions. I’m paraphrasing them, but they were to:

1) Affirm the importance of accessible transportation in our community

2) Direct administration to ensure DTS receives the full January – June funding that was approved in the 2019 budget, contingent on DTS reversing its recent service claw backs (there was discussion that this funding may not end after June, but we obviously need to revisit its amount)

3) Direct administration to report back with options for providing affordable transportation if DTS ceases operations or continues with current service modifications

4) Direct administration to report back with steps necessary to provide free City Transit rides to those accompanying and helping a person with disabilities

It should be noted that Mayor Given and City management have already been talking to the DTS board and other organisations. The City started working hard to find solutions as soon as it became aware of DTS’ current situation. Tonight’s motions endorsed the work that was already underway.

Since getting elected, no other topic has led to me receiving more phone calls and emails. I’ve heard from many people directly impacted. But I’ve also heard from a lot of people who don’t use DTS themselves but see its value in our community.

Many DTS users are great advocates for themselves and their peers. But others have troubles making their voices heard. The community is speaking loudly and clearly on their behalf.

This has, once again, shown me that Grande Prairie is a community which cares for its neighbours.

I LOVE THAT!