City to penalize Action Bus ‘no-shows’

Action Bus riders who are ‘no shows’ may soon be charged for taking away the specialized service from other riders.

Action Bus riders who are ‘no shows’ may soon be charged for taking away the specialized service from other riders.

In efforts to offer the most efficient service, the City of Red Deer is implementing a process that will penalize repeat offenders for no shows and cancelling without notice.

Yvonne Johnson, a frequent Action Bus rider, said the move is a good one because it will allow drivers to pick up more clients in a day.

“It’s causing a huge problem,” said Johnson.

“There’s only so many buses going during the day. Many trips that people are trying to get are not available. They really have to cut back on that.”

In 2012 there were 1,500 no shows and late cancellations where a driver arrived to pick up a client but the person was not at home or the trip was not needed.

Transit manager Kevin Joll said the city is looking at several models in the industry but awareness of the impacts on service is critical.

He said this isn’t necessarily about people abusing the system.

“First step is awareness, warnings and very likely to having to pay for the service if it continues,” said Joll.

“And if continued (they would be) take off the list until they prove they can meet the commitment.”

Joll said the process would be staged because there are situations where it is out of a client’s control or is not his or her fault. The city will be moving in the direction this summer or early fall.

Joll said there are times during the day when a dispatcher is not available but there is a cellphone number for before and after hours for clients for trip cancellations.

More hours were added this year to the dispatch service at peak hours.

On Monday Red Deer city council passed a number resolutions aimed at changing the eligibility criteria, including discontinuing automatic service for people over 80 and adding a recertification process after three years.

Joll said the changes are about being effective in a time when demand for service is high and will continue to increase.

The city’s 21 Action Buses make roughly 300 trips a day.

Each year since 2007, there have been 400 new requests for service. There are currently 2,043 clients on the list.

“You need to do a good job,” said Joll. “And make sure the people who are getting the service are people that really need the service.”

Red Deer Action Group Society president Jean Stinson agrees it is vital to explore all the options and to determine whether those on the buses really have no option but the specialized service.

Stinson said charging riders who do not show up can be tricky but sees merit in a phased-in approach with warnings.