Bus pass program leaving applicants mired in delays, phone tree hang-ups

Just a short time after his story appeared in the Citizen, Duncan Manor senior Virgil Baciu got help with his 2014 bus pass.

The pass is a special one, issued through the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation’s B.C. Bus Pass Program to aid seniors, those with fixed or low incomes, and those on disability to travel around and between Cowichan and Victoria for at a significantly reduced rate.

While the Cowichan resident is thrilled, more are speaking up on similar struggles.

Nick Proctor knows why he didn’t get his pass. He moved and he didn’t get the paperwork in the mail to apply.

But Proctor’s had a nightmarish time on the phone trying to speak with a human to get the documents sent to his new address.

"I just waited and waited and waited and waited and then it told me it would disconnect me. They actually tell you they are going to disconnect you," Proctor said. "There’s got to be other people out there this is happening to."

People like Cowichan Bay’s Ron Cracknell have come forward to share their stories of frustration. Cracknell is nearly homebound after not receiving the paperwork needed to apply for his 2014 bus pass.

"I’ve been waiting a long time. I’m on disability and it’s my only form of transportation," Cracknell explained. "I’m on a fixed income. I can’t afford taxis."

While he’s had no problems in the past with the B.C. Bus Pass Program, this time around he’s had nothing but.

"It’s exclusive to this year," he said. "I did change my address in September but I felt that it was enough time for them to adjust."

Cracknell said every year he gets his renewal paperwork in the mail. This year it didn’t come. He phoned, and unlike Baciu, whose problems centered around not being able to get anything other than an automated message on the phone, Cracknell was able to get through to a human in early December.

"It was very difficult to get through to them," Cracknell said. "I made sure all my contact information was correct and they said they’d send me the information in early December and it hasn’t happened." Cracknell managed to get himself to the disability office and asked them for help.

"They said they couldn’t help me. It’s still within their ministry but it’s a different branch of it," he explained.

A kind woman at the office got in touch with a man at the bus pass office who did phone Cracknell.

"He said he’d do something about it. That was still this past Monday," Cracknell said. "I haven’t received word about what he was going to do."

He still checks his mail every day for the application papers.

But, with a two-week processing period and then a wait for the mail to come, Cracknell figures it’ll be some weeks before he sees his new pass.

"Even if I do get that application I’m still looking at another month according to their message, before I can get the pass. When I try to get help I’m told that it’s not their department," he said. "The disability office won’t assist in the meantime."

While grateful for the help he has received, like Baciu, Cracknell is running out of places to turn.