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Senior with disability upset over bus service limitations

Peter Boken says he was denied bus transit from Yellowknife Accessible Transit System (YATS) even though he is approved to receive the service by the City of Yellowknife.
“Everybody should be entitled to (accessible transit),” says Peter Boken, who has been suspended from using the Yellowknife Accessible Transit System and lives outside the existing route. Hilda Victor-Udunze/NNSL photo

Peter Boken says he was denied bus transit from Yellowknife Accessible Transit System (YATS) even though he is approved to receive the service by the City of Yellowknife.

Boken said that he recently suffered a stroke, is now blind in his left eye and has difficulty walking. Because of his disability, he qualified for YATS, a transit service reserved for people with disabilities.

Boken told Yellowknifer that, while he was visiting the Baker Centre, one of the seniors said, “Why don’t you just get on the bus with us and then when the (driver) is done with his loop, he can take you home?”

Boken responded at the time, “That makes perfect sense.”

He boarded the bus with the other seniors to be transported to his home on Braden Boulevard, which is located in the Grace Lake area, near Kam Lake Road.

He contends that the bus driver balked after he provided the document he received from the City of Yellowknife approving him to use the bus service.

According to Boken, the driver continued to object and Boken insisted on being brought home and would not disembark. Allegedly, the driver eventually agreed to bring him to his home but did not actually do so. The driver dropped off every passenger other than Boken and drove him to the bus station, he said. From there, Boken said he was scolded by another YATS employee and was told yet again to disembark. He did and he walked home from the station.

Boken admits that, in frustration, he used foul language directed toward the driver. As a result, he said a YATS employee at the bus station told him that he would not be allowed to use YATS’ services again.

Yellowknifer contacted the City of Yellowknife to inquire about the incident.

“Mr. Boken confirmed on Aug. 30, 2022 that he received the YATS service guidelines (available online) and agreed to adhere to the terms and conditions set out in the guidelines as part of the YATS application process,” a city spokesperson stated.

The YATS service guideline states, “The service area is generally defined as an 800‐metre zone around the existing fixed‐route transit routes.”

The nearest bus route relative to Boken’s home is from the bus station between Finlayson Drive and Dusseault Court. The distance between the station and Boken’s residence exceeds the 800‐metre limit.

In order to use YATS, Boken was required to use another method of transportation to be brought to a location where the bus would pick him up.

Yellowknifer asked the City of Yellowknife about his indefinite suspension of service due to the incident.

“We cannot comment on issues regarding specific people and incidents. However, we can confirm that the length of any suspension from city facilities and programs is relative to the behavior exhibited and depends on the specific circumstances of each situation,” the city’s spokesperson stated.

Contrary to what he said he was told verbally at the bus station, on Oct. 3, weeks after the incident, Boken was issued a warning, which is the normal protocol according to the YATS Service Guidelines. “(Disruptive behavior) will result in the issuance of a written warning stating the offence and potential for suspension of service, if repeated.”

According to the YATS service guideline, “YATS reserves the right to suspend service immediately and indefinitely… for serious offences.”

According to Boken, this was his first and only incident since he started using the service.

He said he hopes his story will bring about positive change for other residents who live a considerable distance from the existing YATS route.

“I feel that accessible transit should not be (determined) by postal code. If you are in the City of Yellowknife boundary, I believe that the accessible transit program should mean what it’s called, ‘accessible transit,’ for all people.”