A longtime Whistler Transit bus driver is under investigation after a report that he failed to help a passenger secure his wheelchair on a local bus last week.
Raven Feraru, a Vancouver resident who visits Whistler often, said he boarded a No. 1 Valley Connector bus at the Gondola Transit Exchange at about midnight on Friday night (April 27). Though the driver lowered the ramp so Feraru could drive his wheelchair on board, he refused to secure Feraru's chair with the safety straps located on the bus, Feraru said. It's not a task Feraru can complete on his own.
"He wouldn't strap me in. He said 'it's not my job,'" Feraru said.
Feraru said he tried to talk to the driver, indicating that helping to secure wheelchairs is, in fact, part of a transit driver's job description. He suggested that the driver check with a supervisor.
But Feraru said the driver continued to refuse to help and said it's Feraru's responsibility to have an aid traveling with him to secure the straps.
He eventually left the bus and waited about 30 minutes for the next bus to take him to his accommodations in Cheakamus Crossing. The driver of that bus was happy to help, Feraru added.
Feraru said he's had trouble on Whistler Transit buses before, dating back to his first visit to the resort in 2008. He remembers a driver refusing to secure the safety straps back then, and passengers stepped in to help that time. Bus drivers are rude to him in Vancouver too, he added.
"It's been ongoing," Feraru said. "I find it very abusive and very discriminatory.
"I've had enough. It needs to stop."
Feraru filed an anonymous report to Whistler Transit about Friday's incident.
A B.C. Transit spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday (May 1) that Whistler Transit has launched an investigation into the incident and officials would like to speak directly to Feraru.
Both Whistler Transit and B.C. Transit have clear, written guidelines regarding accessibility and it's absolutely part of a driver's job to help secure wheelchairs with the safety straps, said Meribeth Burton, B.C. Transit's manager of media relations.
"If this is confirmed to be true this is unacceptable behaviour by the operator," Burton said. "It's unacceptable not to assist. It is a clear requirement of the job."
She noted that the driver in question has been with Whistler Transit for 10 years and he has no previous complaints on his record.
As a result of the incident, B.C. Transit has decided to implement mandatory refresher training for all Whistler Transit drivers on May 6 and 7, Burton said. The training includes various safety measures and other aspects of transit, including accessibility.
"Both Whistler Transit and B.C. Transit are taking this very seriously," she said. "We want to ensure that it never happens again."
Burton also noted that all transit drivers are trained in accessibility, and Whistler Transit operators would have had refresher training leading up to the 2010 Games. The driver in question was interviewed on Tuesday in relation to the incident, and Burton said officials would like Feraru's involvement in the investigation as well.
"We would like to hear from this person," she said. "It would certainly help in their investigation."Feraru told The Question that he planned to contact B.C. Transit.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, it's up to Whistler Transit officials to decide on any "corrective action" against the driver, Burton said. That could include everything from a suspension to a letter on his file.
Burton added that transit officials would like to issue an apology to Feraru and offer him a three-month Whistler Transit pass.
"We would like to apologize to the person who had to wait in the early morning hours for another bus and another operator who could accommodate his needs," Burton said. "I think a face-to-face apology is certainly warranted."