No plan to spend accessibility surcharge on new vehicles: report
Increasing accessible vehicle fleet was top idea pitched at community consultations
- On Mar. 21, 2019, committee dropped the recommendation to create a Para Transpo app.
- On Mar. 27, 2019, full council approved spending the fund on the other three ideas.
- Council also asked staff to try to negotiate a surcharge of more than $0.07 per ride.
City staff have come up with a plan to spend the cash generated through an accessibility surcharge paid by Uber and Lyft, but the recommendations don't call for adding to the city's fleet of accessible vehicles on the roads.
In a report made public ahead of next week's meeting of the community and protective services committee, staff said that as of Dec. 31, 2018, the total amount of money in the vehicle-for-hire accessibility fund was close to $1.25 million.
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It's been growing since July 2017 when Uber agreed to pay a voluntary accessibility surcharge of $0.07 per trip to support accessible transportation in Ottawa.
Lyft agreed to contribute a similar amount to the fund in March 2018.
The report said that based on historical trip data, "an average of $720,000 per year can be allocated to programs supporting accessible transportation [in Ottawa]."
City staff are proposing four recommendations for how that money should be spent:
- To provide funds to not-for-profit local agencies, like community resource centres, so that they can expand accessible transportation services in rural areas.
- To develop a smartphone app for Para Transpo customers so they can track the arrival of their ride.
- To reduce the cost of taxi coupons, which allow Para Transpo users to take accessible taxi cabs at a discount.
- To increase the maximum allowance of taxi coupons per customer.
Those ideas follow a series of public consultations where, according to the report, the number one idea was to "increase the number of accessible vehicles."
That was not one of the final recommendations, however.
The report said staff looked at the feasibility of all the ideas generated through the public consultations, and their analysis revealed some of the ideas were already being considered.
"Other ideas were deemed not feasible for implementation at this time for reasons, such as cost, resources requirements, and sustainability," the report said.
During the consultations, city staff warned participants not to set their expectations too high.
Catherine Gardner took part in the consultations and said she's concerned the recommendations don't include improvements to rural-to-city and city-to-rural transportation.
Gardner is a nature photographer and accessibility advocate who uses Para Transpo, and said that when she wants to leave the city using the service, she has to pay an additional fee.
"I'm not allowed to take the bus to Jack Pine Trail because it's considered a rural area and it's 10 minutes away from me, so I have to pay $9.25," Gardner said.
Gardner said that fee applies to each of her trips to and from the countryside.
Bob Brown, another advocate for accessible transportation, said he doesn't think the surcharge should help fund an app to track drivers, because that should be covered regardless.
"They have the trip-planning apps and stuff for the city, so why should it be any different for ParaTranspo?" said Brown.
He did add he was happy to see some of the money going towards reducing the cost of taxi coupons.
"It shouldn't cost me more to take a cab because there's no accessible Ubers or Lyft or things like that. It should be an accommodation to make [it] the same price," he said.
Both advocates agree the recommendations are a step in the right direction, but don't think they'll necessarily improve accessibility overall.