In reality, however, the report says no buses are available for people outside the 400-metre limit when demand is at its highest.
“Currently, Handi-Transit service is operating at capacity,” the report says. “Travelling outside the currently defined service area during peak hours is not possible without the addition of more vehicles.
“Requests for out-of-service area trips can often be accommodated provided they are for weekends or off-peak service hours, when impact to customers within the service boundaries is minimal.”
Expanding the current boundaries to between 1-5 kilometres would require more buses, the report concludes. Otherwise, wait times for riders would become unreasonably long and would exceed minimum standards.
“A minimum addition of one extra vehicle would be required to each of the six extremities of the service area,” the report concludes, a number that could rise to 12 extra buses, depending on how far and where the limit is extended.
“The financial impact to the operating budget could be in a range of between $500,000 and $990,000 per year.”
Handi-Transit costs have been rising steadily in the last 10 years, since 2005 when they were integrated with Sudbury Transit, meaning they operated the same hours and routes. According to a 2011 audit by Auditor General Brian Bigger, Handi-Transit use increased by 26 per cent between 2005 and 2009. The net cost to the city increased by more than $1 million in that time, rising to more than $2.7 million.
Last year alone, the Handi-Transit budget came in $215,000 higher than forecast. According to a staff report last year, Handi-Transit has exceeded its forecast budget by an average of $125,000 in recent years.
To stem the soaring costs, new eligibility criteria for riders were introduced last year, and efforts were made to encourage more use of the conventional transit system by people who are eligible to use Handi-Transit.