Committee Recommends Subsidies\Incentives To Insure Accessibility

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Moose Jaw might be headed towards bylaws for Ride Sharing and Taxis but for one Citizens Advisory Committee they would like to ensure that people with disabilities are not forgotten in the mix.

At their Thursday evening meeting the Special Needs Advisory Committee voted in favour of Council recommending “The development of an accessibility surcharge or some sort of an incentive in both the Taxi and Ride Share Bylaws.” The recommendation were made in an attempt to help insure people with disabilities will have access to transportation.

In a discussion which centered around safety concerns, equipment required, criminal record checks of all drivers as well as stimulating sufficient number of accessible taxis the Committee hashed out many of the problems and potential solutions to have enough accessible taxis for people with disabilities.

Mike Bachiu, committee chair, spoke about fairness in pricing and the need for the City to regulate pricing.

“By no regulations of fees or tariffs there is no prohibition on charging people with special needs more…it does not seem like adequate protection to me,” Bachiu said.

Presently there is no pricing regulations what taxis, shuttles and limousines can charge as there is no Taxi Bylaw. Operators are able to charge whatever fee they chose to.

He said although it is not a requirement in the proposed bylaw something like receipt printing would be beneficial and help people who are non-verbal.

“Receipts would absolutely be an asset.”

Bachiu spoke about costs to set up a taxi for people with disabilities and how requirements of GPS and cameras as well as the appropriate documentation to set up a taxi for people with disabilities made it cost prohibitive for firms to get into the business.

“It is making it so people are more inclined to not support people with special needs,” he said.

Later he would say about taxi company rates “I had one transit driver tell me its the Wild West out there as taxis decide to charge whatever they want.”

In discussion Bylaw Officer Stacey Landin said she had explored Regina’s bylaw where there is a seven cent surcharge on all taxi fares which goes into a fund to help purchase more vehicle’s for that city’s paratransit fleet.

Landin cautioned about asking for too much equipment in taxis for disabled people.

“You could be penalizing a company with all kinds of equipment for just 10 rides a month,: she said.

Discussion around any mobility fee charged to taxis as well as ride share services centered around the effort necessary to collect the fees.

“There would be significant resources used to collect,” she said, adding “cities who are asking for an accessibility fee have been regulating providers for some time.”

In Moose Jaw there has not been a Taxi Bylaw and regulation in well over five years.

Bachiu gave one suggestion and that was limiting the number of taxis on the road and then allowing additional taxis to operate so long as they were accessible for people with disabilities.

One main area of discussion centered around personal safety of passengers in the taxi industry.

“Kids today won’t take cabs due to the safety factor,” committee member Angela Sereda said adding it was because there were no regulations as to who could drive cabs. She later added “a big thing there needs to be a feeling of accountability.”

“There is no criminal record check and I know all kinds of people driving taxis with sexual offences and there is no criminal record check,” committee member Doreen Gane-Mowery said.

Bachiu related his family’s own experience with taxis that his son will use taxis but his two daughters will not but when it comes to ride sharing, where an app is used, they will.

“Taxis are incredibly sketchy…but the illusion it is tied to an app (with someone overlooking it) makes it safe.”

“At the present time we have no idea who is driving a taxi because we have no bylaw,” Landin explained.

Under the new SGI legislation all taxi drivers and ride share would be required to have criminal record checks on an annual basis and report any convictions between those annual checks.

In the actual area of transportation of people with disabilites Landin told the Committee there is nothing in the current draft of the bylaw “to have wheelchair or accessible taxis in any form.”

“I would love to see more accessible taxis as paratransit cannot cover it all,” she said.

Bachiu saw the “bylaw is a good first step and we would like to see a plan going forward.”

Landin said just getting the Taxi Bylaw was the best route because it was “easier to make changes to an existing bylaw than to get a new one.”

Confidence in having a Taxi Bylaw adopted and then later amended did not sit well with committee member Darryl New who wanted to see something more concrete in it to help insure taxis for disabled people were available.

“I can’t feel confident there would be change. There needs to be something in place that reflects we have cabs and transportation available for people with disabilities..I have a little trouble endorsing this,” New said.

He would go on to state the cost of specialized transportation for people with disabilities was “phenomenal” and there needed to some way to financial encourage or subsidize accessible transportation.

“I don’t know if we should be excluding people with disabilities in a bylaw,” he said, adding although administration of a accessibility fund “could be difficult at least it builds a slush fund” to subsidize or encourage it, New said.

New continued to call for something put into the bylaw to help ensure there was accessible taxis available.

“If they do go ahead with the bylaw and it is not included people do not like change. It could be 10 years until it is included.”

With the push to see the Taxi and Ride Share Bylaws approved as soon as possible the Committee was only given two weeks to provide their input and so made the motion to make the recommendation on Thursday instead of waiting until next month’s meeting.

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