Posted: Mar 18, 2013 10:32 AM ET
Several dozen people came to Hamilton City Hall to hear a discussion about fare parity on public transit on Monday morning. (Adam Carter/CBC)
Hamilton city council heard from several delegations on its plan to charge blind and disabled people to ride public transit at city hall on Monday morning.
“I’m disappointed this meeting had to happen,” said Lawrence Shapiro, who presented at council. “I don’t understand why we’re being put in a position where we have to defend who we are and defend our needs – I don’t think it speaks well of the political leadership of our community.”
Currently, Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) has a voluntary pay program, where people who are legally blind as well as those with canes, walkers and wheelchairs can ride free of charge. Those who choose to pay can do so, but they are not obligated to pay the standard $2.55 fare.
The proposed fare parity policy would mean everyone pays the standard fare.
Council originally voted in favour because it heard from staff that the fare parity policy was necessary under new transportation standards regulations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). But Sandi Mangat, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, told CBC Hamilton back in December that the city’s interpretation of the act is inaccurate.
Section 46 of the act states: “No conventional transportation service provider shall charge a higher fare to a person with a disability than the fare that is charged to a person without a disability where the person with a disability uses conventional transportation services, but a conventional transportation service provider may charge a lesser fare for a person with a disability.”
On Monday, Coun. Sam Merulla moved that the fare parity issue be reopened at the General Issues Committee meeting on April 3, so that councillors can receive a staff report on fare parity.
“We need to look at the human side of this rather than the dollar and cents side,” said Cathie Mason of the Canadian National Institute of the blind. “This city is made up of people.”