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Innisfail close to securing wheelchair accessible van

New vehicle is expected to cost about $81,000 and be ready for service in early 2022
MVT Innisfail Wheelchair accessibilty van
The Town of Innisfail is set to purchase a new wheelchair accessible van that will focus on transporting local citizens to out-of-town appointments, and free up the current PACE handivan for increased in-town service. MoveMobility photo

INNISFAIL – The town is close to securing a long-awaited wheelchair accessible van to transport seniors and physically challenged citizens to out-of-town appointments.

At council’s Sept. 27 regular meeting, Meghan Jenkins, the community services director, presented a detailed verbal report that outlined a proposal, which was recently recommended by the town’s Transportation Committee, to purchase a top-of-line wheelchair accessible van with a price tag of just over $81,000.

That cost, however, will be offset by a $20,000 grant from the Medically At-Risk Driving Centre at the University of Alberta, and potentially more from local service groups that have already expressed interest in the project, which has been explored by the town for more than a year.

Council approved the plan in principle but won’t make a final decision until Oct. 12 when it meets for the last regular meeting before the Oct. 18 general municipal election. Jenkins said her department was still working out operational details for the new vehicle.

She said the committee explored numerous options, and ultimately determined that a small vehicle with a capacity of up to two wheelchairs or five passengers, or a combination of both, would best serve the community’s needs. This would be for out-of-town appointments or trips.

The new vehicle would allow the PACE bus to remain in town on a more consistent basis, she said.

She said the Transportation Committee has received a proposal from the Winnipeg office of MoveMobility, a company that specializes in conversions of vans for wheelchair accessibility.

She said a quote for just over $81,000 was received for a new P3 Ram Full Master side entry van. She said the committee looked at others as well.

“As we explored the demand and the practicality of those vehicles we really settled more towards this smaller vehicle. It is a bit bigger than a minivan. This would be more practical, easier to use, and easier to access for the patrons,” she said.

She told council it will be a 12-week time period to complete the conversion of the vehicle, and that work would be finished in early 2022.

Once it is ready for service, the user cost for the new van would work on the same basis as the PACE handivan, which costs $5 for one-way in-town trip, and $30 to $50 for a trip out of town.

The PACE handivan is a 2019 StarTrans Senator II model, with a 12-passenger or six-wheelchair capacity, that has been serving the community for the past two years.

“It would be the same cost per user as the PACE bus,” she said.

The town would look to utilize the new wheelchair accessible van for out-of-town service as there has been feedback the PACE bus is often unavailable if it’s out of town for up to three hours at a time to take someone for an appointment, she said.