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Wheelchair Users Upset City Council Might Put Taxi Reforms Into Reverse

Council set to reopen taxi debate next week.

Blair Williams, disabled-taxi advocate, speaks Tuesday at city hall. By: Betsy Powell City Hall Bureau, Published on Tue Apr 28 2015

Blair Williams was encouraged when city council passed sweeping taxi industry reforms that would eventually lead to Toronto’s entire cab fleet being wheelchair accessible.

Fourteen months later, Williams is not finding it any easier, faster or cheaper to book a metered taxi that can accommodate his wheelchair.

But what he finds even more unsettling is the prospect that council could soon undo some of the changes it passed in 2014, potentially affecting long-term accessibility goals.

“I feel flustered that we’re going to be back at step one. We can’t allow it to happen,” Williams told the city’s disability issues committee on Tuesday.

As part of a major taxi industry overhaul, council adopted a phased-in approach to accessible cab service with a goal of six per cent of the taxi fleet by this June, on the eve of the Pan Am Games. In January 2014, Toronto had no accessible taxis for metered on-demand service.

Tracey Cook, executive director of municipal licensing and standards, told the committee that six per cent goal has been surpassed as Toronto now has 451 taxis, including Wheel Trans, offering metered on demand service. Another 80 applications are underway.

She was “very disappointed” to hear Williams and others tell the committee they still can’t hire accessible cabs in timely fashion. “It gives us an opportunity to go back to the industry and figure out how do we address this,” she said.

And if council, at its meeting next week, votes to reverse the licensing part of the taxi reforms, creating a single Toronto Taxi Licence (TTL), one third of the fleet, or 1,700, would eventually be wheelchair accessible. There are also a “myriad” of ways to meet the long-term goal of 100 per cent accessibility, Cook said.

Council could, for instance, require there be a standardized, fully accessible vehicle, irrespective of the type of licence.

Meanwhile, councillors on the disability issues committee blasted their colleagues on the licensing and standards committee, particularly Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) and Jim Karygiannis (Ward 38, ScarboroughAgincourt) for reopening the taxi debate.

“There is a nasty, aggressive, very pushy (taxi) lobby going on to take what we did in council and then what a court upheld and undo it all,” said Councillor Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East).

The disability issues committee passed motions asking council to renew its commitment to taxi reform and a fully accessible taxi fleet.

Reproduced from http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2015/04/28/wheelchair-users-upset-city-council-might-put-taxi-reforms-into-reverse.html