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Disabled Transit Users Pitch Ideas for Uber Accessibility Cash

By Laura Osman , CBC News Posted: Jan 31, 2018

Kathleen Gorman has used Para Transpo for 20 years. She pitched several different ways to spend the money the city collects from Uber.

People with physical disabilities want to see $450,000 collected from Uber used to improve Para Transpo service, but city staff warned them not to set their expectations too high.

Two dozen people with disabilities shared their ideas at City Hall Tuesday for how to spend the fund to improve accessibility.

The money was collected as part of a deal city council struck with Uber when the city first agreed to license the company in April 2016. Rather than make its services available for people with disabilities which is what Uber does in Toronto the company agreed to pay the city a 7-cent fee for every ride it provides in Ottawa.

Temper expectations, says city

While those who use Para Transpo have complained for years that the service requires more investment, the city’s manager of emergency and protective services said users should temper their expectations of how much can be accomplished with the Uber surcharge fund.

“Half a million dollars may seem like a lot of money to you and me, but with projects like these it goes quickly,” Anthony Di Monte said.

Riders said the money should be used to shorten wait times on the phone to book a ride, improve dispatch and improve training drivers. The money can only be used for one-time-only projects because the surcharge is currently voluntary and there’s no guarantee Uber will continue to pay it in the future.

GPS tracking, snow clearing among ideas

One suggestion involved tracking Para Transpo buses using GPS so users always know when their ride will show up, just like Uber or traditional OC Transpo service.

“Even if they could call us to say it’s going to be an hour, or another half hour, it gives you time to finish up your business,” said Kathleen Gorman. Right now, she said she sometimes has to wait around outside for an hour without any idea when her bus will show up.

Other ideas included:

  • A paid bus tour for Para Transpo users to see Christmas lights
  • A user manual for new Para Transpo users
  • Improved snow removal on sidewalks
  • Better payment options, like Presto, on Para Transpo

The fund does not have to be directed toward Para Transpo. The only stipulation is that the money must be used to make transportation easier for disabled people, which could include giving it to a community organization, using it to improve intersections and sidewalks, or putting it toward accessibility features on the Confederation LRT line.

The city plans to hold more consultation meetings throughout the month. The ideas will be whittled down by a committee with representatives from city departments, the accessibility advisory committee, city manager Steve Kanellakos and Coun. Shad Qadri.

City council will have the final say on how the money is spent in June 2018.

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