A driver has taken GO Transit to the Ontario human rights tribunal for failing to stop other cars from blocking disabled parking spots. By: Tess Kalinowski Transportation reporter, Published on Thu Mar 27 2014
Sandra Kendall stands in one of the handicapped parking spots at the King City GO train station. Kendall, who suffers with severe rheumatoid arthritis is taking GO to the human rights tribunal because it won’t ensure access to disabled parking at the station.
A King City woman who suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis has filed a human rights complaint over what she claims is GO Transit’s failure to maintain access to disabled parking spots.
Sandra Kendall is asking the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to award her $100,000. She hopes the dollar figure will attract the attention of GO officials, who haven’t stopped other vehicles from blocking accessible parking spots at the King City station.
“I’m not sure when I actually started getting mad,” said Kendall. But her complaints about various accessibility issues on GO, including the parking problem and a request for information on evacuation plans and procedures for disabled riders, date back about two years.
Kendall doesn’t use a mobility device, although for a while she was walking with a cane following knee surgery. She says people who, like her, have invisible disabilities are frequently met with cold stares when they request priority seating or other assistance on transit.
In one instance, she says a service disruption left a blind rider and two others in wheelchairs to find their own way onto shuttle buses with no staff assistance.
Most days Kendall arrives early at the GO station, about 7:50 a.m., to take the 8:20 a.m. train to her job as a medical librarian at a downtown hospital. If she arrives later, Kendall says, she risks not being able to park and being late for work. That’s because cars dropping commuters at the station block access to the eight accessible parking spaces.
The King City Station has no kiss-and-ride drop-off area, according to GO’s website.
In her human rights claim, Kendall cites incidents in which drivers have yelled at her and in one case hit her car door when she has shown her disabilities permit and asked them to move. Repeated requests for GO to police the problem haven’t helped, she said.
“This is a pretty simple issue. They’re not enforcing a bylaw,” said Kendall. “I’ve been very anxious, I’ve been late for work, it’s stressful, it’s annoying,” she said.
When Kendall asked GO for copies of the various complaint forms she has filed with the transit service, she was told she would need to make a formal request under Ontario’s access to information provisions.
In February, Kendall approached a GO enforcement officer at the station and asked her to ticket those who blocked accessible parking spots. She was told the officer needed to ticket a car that was wrongly parked in a reserved spot, something Kendall pointed out could be done any time that day.
When Kendall complained to GO directly, she was told that enforcement officers were too busy to monitor the parking situation. After one complaint, GO reportedly sent out an email asking station customers not to block the accessible parking. But Kendall says most of the people who drop off riders at the station don’t get GO emails.
When Kendall appealed to King Township, it sent a bylaw officer to the station.
Mayor Steve Pellegrini said Kendall’s complaint is valid, particularly in winter, when cars park near the station so their passengers can wait in the warmth for the train.
When the King bylaw officer politely asked the drivers blocking the accessible parking to move along, most complied, said Pellegrini.
“One guy was a little obstinate about it. He obviously went to GO and GO said to us, it’s private property, and they didn’t want us enforcing their bylaws,” he told the Toronto Star.
While the Township has scarce enforcement resources, it was trying to help, he said.
“You don’t want our help, good, you deal with your own issues,” said Pellegrini. “You made the bylaws for your land in terms of handicap. If you don’t want us to do it, that’s fine, you enforce (them).”
Anne Marie Aikins, a spokesperson at Metrolinx, the provincial agency that oversees GO, said, “Transit Safety Officers conduct regular patrols at all GO Transit stations across a vast service area on a daily basis. Officers adjust their presence appropriately to meet the daily demands of all our stations.”
Aikins would not say how many enforcement officers GO employs.
Asked if GO might add a kiss-and-ride area to its King City station, she told the Star that, “Metrolinx regularly examines and refines its parking strategy. Part of that is considering what improvements may be made and what funding is available for them. The parking situation at King City is currently being considered.”
GO is committed to “ensuring that its services and operations are as accessible as possible to all its customers,” she added.
The tribunal has granted GO an extension to April 21 to respond to the complaints in Kendall’s claim.
If GO agrees to mediation, the two parties will try to come to terms. If not, the tribunal orders a hearing and makes a ruling on the claims, said Georgia Prifonidis, executive assistant of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
It usually takes about a year to resolve human rights complaints, she said.