New app 'doesn't change anything,' says Para Transpo rider

OC Transpo launched the new 'My Para Transpo' app last week after users waited two years for upgrades. But some are upset there's still no ability to book same-day rides.

My ParaTranspo app pledges to make it easier to book rides, but no same-day service

Kyle Humphrey, a wheelchair user and member of the group Para Parity, says the new 'My Para Transpo' app remains disappointing as there's still no ability to book same-day trips. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

If Kyle Humphrey wants to go for an impromptu beer after work with his colleagues, he can't.

It's the same story if he's invited to a last-minute Ottawa Senators game, or his friends make social plans the day of — and a new Para Transpo app, he says, won't change that.

"It makes me feel so excluded," said Humphrey, a wheelchair user and member of Para Parity, which has been looking at ways to improve the shared-ride public transit service.

 "[The app] doesn't change anything of the service itself." 

Last week, OC Transpo launched the new 'My Para Transpo' app after users waited two years for upgrades.

Before the upgrades, Para Transpo users would have to wait on the phone for up to an hour to book rides, and they never knew exactly when their shared bus was coming. 

Now they should be able to book a ride online, from various platforms, and can track their buses in real time. 

The app promises to "make it easier for customers to book a trip online" according to the media release. Coun. Allan Hubley, chair of the city's transit commission, tweeted Friday that it would offer "the convenience of self-serve when booking, cancelling, or tracking rides."

Mayor Jim Watson called it "a significant step in providing convenient access to Para Transpo services for customers." 

While the app offers some improvements, Humphrey said it was disappointing there was still no ability to book same-day trips. Nor was there any announcement of service availability being expanded beyond the 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. window, he added.

"Right now you can only book based on the [estimated] pick-up time. And that's fine if you know what time you want to leave the place," he said.

But sometimes, Para Transpo will drop him off at work an hour before his shift begins, or pick him up an hour after he's ready to head home — and the app won't fix that, he said.

"Paratransit users don't have the luxury of getting off of a bus and jumping into their friend's car," he said.

The new app is a 'a significant step in providing convenient access to Para Transpo services,' according to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. (Kate Porter/CBC)

'Start treating us like equals' 

"There's still a few minor issues with it, but it's workable," said John Redins, a disabilities advocate and board member for Ottawa Transit Riders. 

He said the latest upgrades included in the new app will save time. 

"You don't have to go on queue at 7 a.m. every morning [for] the next day."

Redins has arthritis — "some days it's good, some days it's just pure rotten" — and uses a walker to get around.

While he remains optimistic about the direction Para Transpo is heading, he echoes Humphrey's calls for same-day bookings. 

"It's demoralizing sometimes that you can't go to an event because you have to count on your paratransit or bus," he said. "Start treating us like equals."

People who use Para Transpo have for years complained about the wait times to book a ride anywhere. And forget about taking a spur-of-the-moment trip. Now the ride service has launched an online app. One user gives his review.