James Cooper made it to Royal Jubilee Hospital Friday morning for a critical medical appointment he thought he’d be forced to miss.
“I was finding it extremely difficult to find any means of transportation over the last few days to even reach here on time,” said Cooper who has a disability and progressive mobility issues.
Cooper usually relies on BC Transit to get around but he says even if buses were running Friday morning the state of bus stops in the city has made them impossible to access for people like him with mobility issues.
“I sometimes need to use a walker when necessary, that’s impossible with the amount of snow on our sidewalks and in around those transit stops.”
Cooper approached two Victoria city councillors, desperate to find a solution. In the end, he says Island Health arranged to have a cab transfer him back and forth, the health authority saying it’s something it does occasionally on a case-by-case basis.
Cab driver Liban Adam has been answering a lot of those calls, he’s been prioritizing his accessible van this week for those who need it most.
“Every day like 10 to 15 passengers, wheelchairs, elderly people, it humbles me. I feel I’m Santa in town taking [people] home during this difficult time,” Adam said.
Cooper admits not everyone has the knowledge or ability to work the system like he did so he says the city needs a better plan to make bus stops a priority when the next snow falls. Public works officials agree there’s room for improvement.
“We’re thinking about maintaining access for emergency vehicles throughout the city and in this case that comes at the expense for some accessibility for bus users, so we’d certainly prefer not have that trade-off but that’s something we’re going to grapple with,” said William Doyle, public works assistant director with the City of Victoria.
Doyle says crews are doing their best and have now cleared about half of the city’s several hundred bus stops. He says when they have time to debrief they will look at improving their response and will look to other municipalities for possible solutions.