The purpose of the Vehicle-for-Hire (VFH) Accessibility Fund consultations was to obtain feedback from the public on how Council should spend accessibility funds collected from licensed Private Transportation Companies.
The consultation process began on December 20, 2017 and continued until February 16, 2018. Feedback was obtained from 130 people using a combination of qualitative and quantitative consultation methods. Members of the public were invited to participate in one of five in-person sessions and/or complete an online survey. Feedback was also received by telephone and e-mail.
All feedback and ideas obtained through the consultation process were considered, however, as per Council’s direction, money from the VFH Accessibility Fund must be spent on programs and services that support accessible transportation in the City of Ottawa. For the purpose of the VFH Accessibility Fund project and related consultations, these programs and services include:
- Accessible transportation services provided directly by wheelchair accessible vehicles such as OC Transpo, Para Transpo and taxis; and/or
- City and community-based programs and services that support or enhance the ability of persons of all ages with physical disabilities who require the use of a mobility device to move around the city regardless of the mode(s) of transportation used.
Further, ideas on how to spend money in the VFH Accessibility Fund must align with:
- The amount of money available in the VFH Accessibility Fund.
- At least one of six Guiding Principles
A set of Guiding Principles was developed to determine eligibility of all feedback and ideas. Participants were advised that all feedback received through the consultations will be reviewed against these principles. As part of the consultations, participants were asked to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with each of the proposed principles. The majority of participants agreed with all six Guiding Principles as follows:
- Accessible: Programs and services that support and/or provide transportation services, within the City of Ottawa, to persons of all ages who have physical disabilities that require the use of a power wheelchair or scooter to meet daily transportation needs. 82% Agreed
- Safe: Programs and services that further enhance the personal safety of individuals with mobility disabilities while using accessible public transportation services in the City of Ottawa. 90% Agreed
- Available: Programs and services that promote or enhance the availability of accessible transportation services for persons with mobility disabilities across all areas of the City, including rural zones and are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of weather. 87% Agreed
- Affordable: Programs and services aimed at ensuring that public transportation costs for individuals for persons with mobility disabilities is equal to or less transportation costs for individuals who do not have disabilities. 91% Agreed
- Timely: Programs and services aimed at ensuring individuals with mobility disabilities are able to access public transportation services in a timely manner (on-demand) that is comparable to services available to all other customers. 92% Agreed
- Sustainable: Programs and services that the City is able to implement and maintain using available resources including funds, information, and staff resources. 89% Agreed
What We Heard
Participants were asked to identify how they think the City should spend funds to support accessible transportation in the City of Ottawa. Participants were asked to rank their ideas from 1 to 5, with 1 being their favourite idea.
The following list is ranked in order of the amount of times each idea was identified by participants.
- Increase the number of accessible vehicles.
- Make a percentage of Para Transpo vehicles available for on-demand service.
- Allocate all or a portion of the funds to not-for-profit and community agencies, such as community resource centres, to expand accessible transportation services in rural areas.
- Provide additional training to taxicab dispatchers and drivers on accessibility issues and how to interact with and assist individuals with disabilities.
- Equip all Para Transpo vehicles and accessible taxicabs contracted by Para Transpo with a GPS tracking system and develop a Smartphone app for Para Transpo customers so they can track the arrival of their ride.
- Improve Para Transpo booking and payment processes including, but not limited to:
- Increasing the number of staff available to answer telephone calls from customers.
- Integrate the Para Transpo, OC Transpo and Taxi Coupon Program payment systems.
- Develop a self-serve online booking system.
- Allow for carpooling.
- Provide rural-to-rural service.
- Provide customers with a user manual for accessing Para Transpo Services.
- Reduce the cost of taxi coupons.
- Improve the Taxi Coupon Program by:
- Increasing the maximum allowance of taxi coupons per customer.
- Removing the requirement to pre-order taxi coupons with individualized information including the Para Transpo account number to eliminate steps for individuals with disabilities including those with visual impairments.
- Priority snow removal at OC Transpo bus stops, Para Transpo pick up/drop-off locations and sidewalks.
- Para Transpo to provide transportation of multiple customers to various seasonal events and special outings.
- Implement a model similar to UberWAV and/or UberACCESS to connect Uber customers with licensed paratransit drivers and curb-to-curb service in vehicles that are equipped with hydraulic ramps or lifts.
- Provide incentives for taxicab drivers to pick up more accessible fares, in the urban and rural areas including:
- Financial assistance to make more taxicabs accessible.
- Offer taxicab drivers a flat rate for all accessible fares.
- Allow taxicab drivers to turn on the meter before assisting customers.
- Improve integration between various modes of public transportation to provide seamless service/transition for customers.
- Take legal action against Uber.
- Incorporate accessibility when building and repairing curb cuts and ensure sidewalks are level with store entrances.
- Provide training to OC Transpo drivers on accessibility issues and how to interact with and assist individuals with disabilities.
- Coordinate City-wide snow removal contracts for improved efficiency.
- Develop and implement a notification system for OC Transpo buses to notify drivers when someone with a disability is waiting for their bus to ensure the bus stops for them.
- Heat all bus and LRT stations.
- Modify/maintain OC Transpo bus ramps to make them more accessible for wheelchairs/scooters.
- Arrange for Seniors Day in Ottawa to take place on any day of the week to reduce crowds on public transportation on specific days.
- When planning for construction, consider how people with mobility disabilities will be impacted.
- Provide Uber drivers with incentives for making their vehicles wheelchair accessible.
- Increase the amount of the voluntary accessibility surcharge for Private Transportation Companies.
- Make the accessibility surcharge mandatory for Private Transportation Companies.
- Make all public transportation in the City of Ottawa scent-free.
- Establish a separate fund that individuals with mobility disabilities can access to support them with transportation costs.
- Provide more information on the various transportation options available to individuals with disabilities.
- Purchase new seatbelts for OC Transpo customers who require the use of a wheelchair.
- Increase the amount of designated space on OC Transpo buses for mobility devices.
- Establish a fund for the modification of personal vehicles of people with disabilities.
- Provide business owners with a tax deduction for making their entrances accessible.
- Allocate space on the City’s website for people to share their personal thoughts on how the City can improve accessibility.
The Vehicle-for-Hire Accessibility Fund consultations generated many innovative ideas for improving accessible transportation in the City of Ottawa.
After completing an initial review of the feedback received through the consultation process, the Vehicle-for-Hire Accessibility Fund Steering Committee determined that many of the ideas fell under the mandate of multiple departments across the organization. Extensive consultation was required for determining the feasibility of implementing the various ideas.
A staff report with recommendations from the Vehicle-for-Hire Accessibility Fund Steering Committee on how to spend the funds was presented to Community and Protective Services Committee and Council in March 2019. Council approved spending the funds on:
- Provide funds to not-for-profit and community agencies, such as community resource centres, to expand accessible transportation services in rural areas;
- Reduce the cost of taxi coupons; and
- Increase the maximum allowance of taxi coupons per customer.
Staff are implementing the recommendations and will provide an update on implementation in 2021.