Other cities require companies like Uber and Lyft to provide wheelchair-accessible service. Why not Ottawa?
Here’s a scenario: you and a friend have spent a pleasant evening out. It’s late, and it’s cold, and so you both decide to splurge on a ride home. You live in different directions, so you’ll need two vehicles. You each request a vehicle, and after a short wait, your ride arrives.
Once home, you text your friend to make sure she got home safely and find out that she is still waiting in the cold! She uses a motorized wheelchair to get around, and there isn’t an accessible vehicle nearby.
There is a danger that this will become the new normal in Ottawa.
Against the advice of accessibility advocates, the City of Ottawa decided in 2016 not to require transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft to provide wheelchair-accessible service, as other cities do. Instead, the City decided to ask the companies for a voluntary surcharge that would go into an “accessibility fund” meant to improve accessibility in other ways.
The City’s consultants, KPMG, recommended that the accessibility surcharge be 30 cents per ride. Total surcharges for these companies in other cities are much higher: US$0.72 per ride in Chicago and US$2.75 in New York City.
Accessibility advocates have no shortage of ideas as to how money in the fund could be spent: when consulted by the City in 2018, they put forward 33 recommendations. The top priority was to increase the number of accessible vehicles. Also near the top of the list was creating an online, self-serve booking system for ParaTranspo.
Unfortunately, the accessibility surcharge has shrunk from the recommended 30 cents per ride to a mere 7 cents per ride — far too meager to make much of a difference. In fact, City staff have already warned accessibility advocates not to expect too much from the accessibility fund.
With the possibility that companies such as Uber will take over more of the market — diluting the already often inadequate service for people using motorized wheelchairs and scooters — that’s just not good enough. The KPMG report clearly sets out the risks:
The economics of the taxi industry have been changing with the introduction of new competition. In New York City there are reports of many taxis being parked because there is insufficient demand. Should that occur in Ottawa, the incentive could be to park the accessible vehicles first, as they are the most expensive to operate. There has already been concern expressed that accessible taxis may not be on the road as often as other taxis.
Other cities, including the City of Toronto, simply require companies such as Uber to provide wheelchair-accessible service with the same fees and wait-times as non-accessible service. We can do that here, too.
And in the short term, the very least the City can do is to increase the accessibility surcharge to 30 cents per ride or even more, so that we have the funds to take real steps to make transportation equitable for all — a very reasonable expectation in 2019.
Tell the Mayor and your City Councillor that you want:
- the accessibility surcharge for companies like Uber to be immediately increased to 30 cents per ride or more; and
- work to begin on requiring companies like Uber to provide wheelchair-accessible service at the same rates and wait-times as their non-accessible service.
You can also tell your Councillor in person that you expect action on this file at a budget 2019 consultation. Find out when your Councillor is holding one here.
Then ask your friends and neighbours to do the same!
Momentum Building in Bells Corners: 500 Residents Petition for Bike Lane and Speed Reduction on Moodie Drive
BIG changes are on the horizon in Bells Corners, all thanks to our committed group of volunteers and the united community of Bells Corners.
On July 22nd, the Healthy Transportation Coalition hosted a public event: Bells Corners Pop-Up Bike Lane & BBQ to demonstrate the residents of Bells Corners’ strong desires to have a safe, separated cycle track and speed reduction implemented on Moodie Drive. Working with City Councillor Rick Chiarelli, the event closed down two lanes of traffic on Moodie Drive in order to install a temporary bike line upon which residents of Bells Corners could cycle safely from 10AM-4PM. We wanted to demonstrate the pressing need for safe cycling infrastructure and a speed reduction on Moodie Drive. The widespread success of the event shattered our expectations.
More than 100 residents attended the event.
500 residents signed our petition, which asks the City to implement a separated cycle track and speed reduction on Moodie Drive.
CBC’s radio broadcast program, All in a Day interviewed Vice President of the Healthy Transportation Coalition, Trevor Haché, and Bells Corners resident, John Netto.
You can find the radio broadcast here: All in a Day Radio Segment
It is imperative that we capitalize on the momentum generated from our outpour of success. With City elections around the corner, the opportunity for the implementation of cycling infrastructure and speed reductions is imminent; in order to progress, we must act now.
To ensure that we can maintain momentum and achieve the separate cycle track and speed reduction on Moodie Drive, I encourage everyone to help our Bells Corners neighbours by:
Sending an email to City Councillor, Rick Chiarelli, urging him to prioritize our petition asks in current city planning initiatives. The link to the email can be found here.
Calling City Councillor, Rick Chiarelli to ask how he plans to implement the cycling infrastructure and a speed reduction, which has been clearly requested by 500 members of Bells Corners who have signed the petition.
We have ways to go before seeing the speed reduction and cycle tracks implemented on Moodie Drive, but if we work together to build from this momentum, we can make more progress, more quickly.