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TRANSIT: Niagara GO Service Now Takes Wheelchairs

September 4, 2010

Niagara’s GO buses have started making time for disabled residents.

Starting Saturday, the popular transit buses will be able to spend more time at each stop along the routes between Niagara Falls and Burlington, allowing
riders with wheelchairs or scooters to get aboard.

The pilot project comes about three months after St. Catharines resident Diane Foster was denied a ride at the St. Catharines bus stop. Officials told her
there wasn’t time to load her motorized wheelchair because the buses must remain on a tight schedule to meet connecting GO Trains in Burlington.

GO officials called Foster Thursday to let her know about the change.

“I’m glad. I guess the publicity was worth it,” said Foster, whose story was featured in The Standard in June. “As I understand it, all the buses will now
be accessible. You don’t have to phone ahead, you just have to be there, which is the way it’s supposed to be.”

All buses and trains run by the provincially funded transit agency are accessible, including lifts and ramps.

But in June, GO officials said planners were still struggling to find a Niagara schedule that would allow for an extra 10 to 15 minutes to load and unload
wheelchairs — without causing riders to miss connecting trains.

At the time, the route was designated as not accessible, but Foster said she didn’t know that before buying her ticket.

On Friday, GO spokeswoman Vanessa Thomas said departure times have been adjusted to allow for accessible service at all Niagara-bound stops, including Stoney Creek, Grimsby, Fairview Mall in St. Catharines and the Niagara Falls Via station.

The agency has a goal of making all routes accessible by 2016, she said.

GO will monitor the pilot project and determine whether further schedule changes are necessary, Thomas said. “In the future, we’re committed to reaching the same level of service in an integrated environment for all of our customers,” she said.

Foster said GO officials kept in regular contact with her this summer and refunded her unused ticket.

She said she’s excited to try out the service for the first time Sept. 9, when she visits her doctor in Niagara Falls.

Foster noted the provincially subsidized service provides a return trip from the Honeymoon City for half the cost of other local para-transit services.

“I go to the doctor every month, so those kind of savings add up for me,” she said. “And I can’t be the only one. I imagine there are plenty of people who
would have used the service to go to Burlington or Toronto, but they haven’t because it wasn’t accessible.”

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