a person helping another person in a wheelchair enter a blue and white accessible vanIn July of 1972, the Rehabilitation Services Committee of the Lakehead Social Planning Council released their Disability Research Report concerning the needs of Thunder Bay’s physically disabled. Stemming from this research, the Handicapped Action Group (HAGI) was formed with their primary purpose being the improvement of housing and transportation for the handicapped. With the donation of a van from a local service club, a federal grant and a $2,500 municipal contribution, Handi-Transit was put into operation created on February 4, 1975, offering door-to-door transportation service to persons unable to board regular transit facilities. With the help of another small grant from the City and some additional federal assistance, Handi-Transit was operational until the Spring of 1976, as attempts to attain Provincial assistance failed. The Minister of Transportation and Communications indicated that no funding would be given until a proper policy concerning para-transit systems had been established by the Province, which was not expected until late 1978.

In order to keep the service operational, City Council approved $32,543 in financial assistance in the spring of 1976. Handi-Transit again applied for financial assistance in 1977, receiving $72,435 to cover operations to the end of the year. The Financial Assistance Review Group recommended continued financial support to Handi-Transit for the year, on the condition that a full operational review would be undertaken on the service through the Chief Administrators office, which Council agreed with.

On July 19, 1977, a meeting was held to review the proposals presented in the recommendations report by the Study. Attending the meeting were representatives from Handi-Transit, the Handicapped Action Group Incorporated, the Lakehead Social Planning Council, the Volunteer Bureau of Thunder Bay, the Lakehead Board of Education, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Social Services Department, and the Transit Department. The purpose of the meeting was to review each recommendation to determine if it was reasonable, practical, and if it could be implemented in the Handi-Transit system. After the group from the July meeting agreed which recommendations would be implemented and which ones were impractical, a special meeting was held on August 13, where the revised recommendations were presented to the financial department of the City. After their review of the report it was generally observed that:

  1. The overall effectiveness of Handi-Transit was good and worthwhile, providing a needed service to the handicapped community at a reasonable cost.
  2. The system was efficient, but by implementation of the recommendations contained in the report, its efficiency could be improved and thus provide a better service at less or equivalent cost.

City Council concurred agreed with the report's recommendation recommendations and directed Administration to assist Handi-Transit with an implementation plan. Handi-Transit therefore, immediately established created an Advisory Committee to oversee operations and began implementing each of the recommendations noted in the report. A copy of the Operational Study was sent to the Province of Ontario along with Council's resolution requesting that the City be considered for operating assistance for their parallel transit service.

A person standing in front of a blue and white Handi-Transit van

On July 1, 1979, the Province of Ontario established a subsidy program for Transportation for the Physically Disabled. The City of Thunder Bay was one of the first municipalities in Ontario to receive an interim subsidy allocation for the operation of Handi-Transit for six months ending December 31, 1979. By August 1980, the Minister of Transportation and Communications approved the Public Transit Operating Agreement between The City of Thunder Bay and the Handicapped Action Group Incorporated (Handi-Transit) for Transportation for the Physically Disabled for the purpose of providing subsidy. On January 1, 1983, Handi-Transit was officially incorporated as HAGI Transit, separate from its parent the Handicapped Action Group.

Although the 1977 study recommended, at the time, that the Handi-Transit system remain an independent body outside of City services and continued to be treated as a financial assistance request, by 2012 HAGI Transit had proven its ability to provide a safe, reliable and relatively inexpensive transit service to person’s with mobility impairments. In 2012, The City of Thunder Bay made HAGI an official division of its Transit Department changing its name to Lift+ Specialized Transit.


a cartoon of a blue bus with the word 'Lift' in a lighter blue circle on its side


Handi-Transit Operational Study 1977

Accessible Transit



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