Nova Scotia

HRM to consider accessible on-demand 'taxi' service

A committee of Halifax regional council is recommending the inclusion of an on-demand accessible mode of transportation be included in Halifax Transit's budget for 2021-22.

Transportation committee hopes to address 'obstacle' of accessible vehicle availability

A taxi cab loads a walker into his wheelchair accessible van in Vancouver on Jan. 30, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A committee of Halifax regional council is recommending the inclusion of an on-demand accessible mode of transportation in Halifax Transit's budget for 2021-22.

The recommendation would have on-demand transportation service provided by a contracted company or companies, like a regular taxi service.

It would collect a standard taxi fare and also receive revenue from the HRM at a rate to be determined. 

The service would operate in densely populated areas of the municipality.

The recommendation was agreed to at a meeting of HRM's transportation committee on Jan. 21 and submitted to council earlier this month.

The move is an effort to deal what the report describes as "the current obstacle of accessible vehicle availability."

Accessible transportation options limited

Accessible transportation options in the city are currently provided by Halifax Transit's conventional vehicles and Access-A -Bus service, and a dwindling number of privately owned taxi and and charter bus operators. 

Access-A-Bus provides door-to-door, shared ride service to approved clients and must be booked in advance.

The report notes that the registration requirement makes this service restrictive to those with temporary transportation requirements. 

According to the report, the capacity of private taxis to offer accessible transportation has dropped in the last six years. 

In 2015, there were 57 licensed accessible taxis but that number dropped to 16 by 2019. There are now only 11 accessible taxis in the HRM. 

The proposed service would see on-demand accessible transportation operating to the same standards as standard taxis in densely populated areas of the HRM. (CBC)

The report attributes this decline to the initial cost of outfitting an accessible vehicle and the higher cost of operating one.

Accessible taxis typically drive further distances to pick up passengers and spend more time assisting passengers resulting. That results in higher operating costs, according to the report. 

Estimating that there would be a requirement of up to 10 concurrent trips, the report suggests that a minimum of 10 vehicles would be required. 

It estimates that the cost to the municipality would range between $280,000 and $600,000 per year for a minimum of a five year, depending on competition in the procurement process.

The report says the targeted start date for the operation is this fall.

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