“We supply safe and affordable transportation to people with disabilities, or the elderly,” said Paul Primeau, vice president of the association. Currently, Handi-Bus service is available in Taber as well as five kilometres around town in the M.D.
“We transport about 55 people a day,” said Primeau.
Primeau said the association has been growing the past five years. Currently, the association is run by a volunteer board, with appointed representatives from Municipal District of Taber council as well as Town of Taber council.
According to Statistics Canada, a quarter of all Canadians will be 65 or older by 2036, and older Canadians tend to use transit more than any other group. Additionally, younger people are moving into urban areas, which could one day lead to a higher proportion of seniors living in rural areas. Lack of transportation is a top concern for seniors in rural areas.
Locally, the Handi-Bus has averaged 726 rides per month during the last six months of 2013, a substantial increase over the 450 rides per month they averaged in 2012. This increase works out to 8,712 rides over the course of the year.
With so much going on, the board is looking for some help to fill the needs of local residents. Currently, they are looking for members for their board as well as drivers for their vehicle.
“When you have more people on the board, the work that is required to be done just gets divided among more people,” Primeau said.
“The reality of it is that some day we’re all going to be on the Handi-Bus,” he added.
Primeau said there are a large number of local residents who have a lot to contribute to the community but who have mobility issues.
“They can’t get around in the community to participate, and to pass on their knowledge to the next generation,” he said. “They just stay at home. It’s been statistically proven that when people lose their mobility, their health degenerates.”
Another important aspect of the Handi-Bus is how convenient and affordable it is for seniors. Primeau said seniors in the area can plan their day around access to the bus, which will provide rides anywhere in town for $4 and represents a substantial markdown, especially when seniors might have a day planned with multiple stops.
Finally, Primeau said the Handi-Bus provides a vital link between people with disabilities and their surrounding community.
“They’re able to participate and integrate themselves into the community,” he said.
Anyone looking for information or who is interested in becoming part of the Taber and District Handi-Bus Association is invited to contact Paul Primeau at 403-715-7223. Board meetings take place on the third Wednesday of the month.