Para Transpo investment stops short, users tell commission – Ottawa

Some Para Transpo users are frustrated the city plans to continue to put millions into OC Transpo without improvements to service for the disabled.

The transit commission approved the 2018 draft budget with $74.3 million set aside to replace and maintain mainstream buses, but no new investments for Para Transpo services. 

“I don’t understand how they can live with themselves,” said Carol Chantal after speaking to the transit commission.

Chantal has used Para Transpo for two decades. She said demand for Para Transpo services is on the rise as the population ages and the city expands, and more accessible buses are needed to keep up.

Wheelchair user Carol Chantal told the city’s transit commission about her frustration with a budget that she said favours able-bodied riders. (Laura Osman/CBC News)

But there are no plans in the budget to add more Para Transpo buses to the fleet. While the city continues to invest in new buses for mainstream riders, Chantal said the quality of Para Transpo service is slipping.

“It makes me feel that I’ve been shortchanged,” she said.

Service slow, unreliable and uncomfortable

She was one of several riders with accessibility needs who told transit commission about difficulties getting around using Para Transpo and OC Transpo.

Wheelchair user Robert Crout told the commission that while traditional buses have accessible spots, the buses are often packed and there’s not enough room for his chair.

Crout said accessible taxis put a strain on his chair because it sits right over the back wheel of the vehicle, making for a bumpy ride.

He said if he does get a Para Transpo bus, he has to book 90 minutes ahead if he hopes to get where he’s going on time.

“Para must be thought of as an essential service,” Crout said.

The Ottawa Seniors Transportation Committee asked the transit commission for more resources so that the 50,000 registered Para Transpo users can better access the service at the same level as conventional transit.

Service improving, city says

A few years ago Para Transpo moved its operations in-house, and had to buy a whole new fleet of 82 accessible buses, ten fewer than the previous contracted fleet. The city has contracted accessible taxis to fill the gap.

Speakers at the transit commission said they find the taxis unsafe and unreliable, but city administration said the taxis have improved the system.

“Since 2014 to present, we’ve increased the number of trips we’ve been…

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