DATS executives hold off on 20-minute Edmonton service for a couple of years

Edmonton city council has set a long-term goal of having the city’s Disabled Adult Transit Service offer a 20-minute pickup window, however, information at Monday’s executive committee meeting showed the current pickup window of 30 minutes will be in place for at least a couple of years.

People who rely on DATS have more pressing priorities, Edmonton’s manager for paratransit service told councillors. Paul Schmold said that assessment is based on feedback received after a three-year action plan was approved in the summer of 2019.

Complaints the committee heard ranged from long waits to be picked up, 90-minute trips that only went 10 blocks and a website that is next to impossible to use to book trips.

“It’s too frustrating,” said Chris Ryan, who lives and works at a law office downtown.

He said after using DATS for five years, he gave up in August, and either cabs it or takes regular transit.

“I can’t bear waiting around as long as you need to wait around to use DATS,” Ryan said.

“I’m trying to go to work and have a life at this point. DATS doesn’t work for that.”

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So instead of forging ahead with a 20-minute service option, Edmonton Transit Service instead will work to make the system better so it will be easier to eventually hit the 20-minute target.

Schmold said they are looking at moving to a system that has a DATS booking based on what time the passenger wants to get to an appointment, as opposed to what happens now, where people book based on when they want to leave.

“Often times, that involves waiting at your doctor’s office because you’re being conservative with your pickup time,” Schmold told reporters.

“With an appointment time that we’re moving towards, our system looks at all those parameters and it’ll estimate based on when you’ll need to be there what your appropriate pickup time should be with a conservative window.”

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Mayor Don Iveson said he would like to see DATS move to a similar “first mile, last mile” merging of the two systems so passengers with disabilities could begin their journey in one of the specialized vehicles before connecting with “LRT or another mainline bus network that can get you maybe 80 per cent of your distances on that, and it drops you off at a place that hopefully has ramps and good snow removal in a business district.”

That is coming, Schmold said, “so you could take DATS to and from major transit hubs so there’s more integration in the way those trips are scheduled.”

Ryan said he is encouraged by that.

“You’d have to do it to know for sure it’ll work, but it sounds like it would be worth trying for sure.”

The other change Schmold said is being worked on is a scheduling improvement on the web.

“We have a planned upgrade for later this year that will modernize the experience make it easier to select addresses instead of common locations,” he said. “That’ll be based on customer feedback,”

DATS has 10,000 registered users. Sixty-five hundred users are currently active, meaning they book at least one trip a year, Schmold said.

City employees and contractors are behind the wheel of 150 vehicles at any given time.

Watch below: Some Global News videos about Edmonton’s DATS service.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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