ALBERTON -- The day starts early for Transportation West and some of its passengers.
Corinna Butler, who looks after scheduling for the registered charity, said vans are on the road as early as 5:45 a.m. some days to transport clients to medical appointments. While most of the rides transportation West provides are within West Prince, the registered charity also takes clients to appointments in Summerside and Charlottetown and goes on group outings with some of the groups it serves.
The service, now in its fourteenth year, transports clients with physical and intellectual disabilities and seniors who have no other means of transportation.
The service is available seven days a week, even transporting clients to church.
Butler said Transportation West is available close to 24/7. “It’s whatever, whenever,” she stressed. Between 50 and 70 clients access the service every week.
“On some of the trips that we do we actually bite the bullet and actually don’t even cover our costs, but we do it as a service to the community,” said Gordon Bush, the manager of the service.
Transportation West’s two main workhorses, Ford diesel vans nearing seven years of age, are starting to show their age and are in need of replacement. Each vehicle has logged over 275,000 kilometers.
Wednesday in Alberton Denis Lebel, Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and
Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of the Economic Development
Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec; and Egmont MP and Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced that the Government of Canada, through Canada’s Gas Tax Fund, is contributing $354,542 to help Pat and the Elephant and Transportation West expand their transit services for persons with disabilities.
Pat and the Elephant treasurer, Greg Peters, welcomed the contribution. “We put 50,000 kilometres on each of our vans every year, so this investment will help us renew our fleet and ensure our clients get the
safest, most reliable transportation we can provide,” Peters said.
“Access to opportunity is fundamental to our quality of life,” said Minister Shea. “Millions of Canadians depend on public transit to get around, and our government is proud to invest in accessible transit service on the Island.”
Transportation West is getting two new vans, each capable of transporting 14 passengers, including two in wheelchairs.
“Demand for our services is increasing, and this investment will help us meet our commitments even when one of our vehicles is unavailable,” said Gordon Bush, Transportation West manager. The two Ford vans will be replaced once the two buses currently being manufactured are put into service. Transportation West also has a vehicle it shares with an organization in Alberton and is currently leasing a mini-bus while another vehicle in its fleet is out for servicing.
Bush said Transportation West is actually considering further expansion, possibly involving the purchase and retrofit of a Caravan for transporting one wheelchair passenger and up to three other passengers for long distance trips, such as to medical appointments in Sunmmerside and Charlottetown. He suggested revenue from the sale of the vans being retired could help with that proposed purchase.