By Tina Depko-Denver
Updated: November-02-12 9:15 AM
BURLINGTON POST – Handi-Van fares will be reduced; free fares for blind passengers to be eliminated.
It will cost Handi-Van riders less to get around starting Jan. 1, 2013, with additional perks such as two-hour transfer windows, the ability to use the Presto card, and transfer onto other municipalities’ specialized transportation.
However, the city’s goal in achieving a single fare system includes the elimination of free fares on conventional buses for blind passengers and a specialized fare for employees of ARC Industries (Community Living Burlington) and attendees of Halton District School Board special learning programs.
The Community Services Committee voted in favour of a fare parity recommendation last Wednesday night. It goes before council Monday, Nov. 5.
Fare parity is required under transportation legislation through the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which is aimed at achieving full accessibility with regards to such things as service delivery, employment and buildings by 2025.
“What this will do is take Burlington Transit and make it a seamless operation between our conventional systems and our specialized systems,” said Mike Spicer, acting director of transit at Burlington Transit. “…In a nutshell, it is a great news story for transit and a great news story for our community.”
Once it gets the anticipated final approval by council in early November, Handi-Van fares will operate on the same fare schedule used for standard Burlington Transit buses in the new year.
Currently, Handi-Van users of any age pay a $3 cash fare, or purchase 10 tickets for $27.50 ($2.75 per ride).
The conversion to the standard fare system will see adult (ages 20-64) ticket prices drop 25 cents per ride, with 10 tickets priced at $25 ($2.50 per ride).
Senior (65-plus) and student (ages 13-19) ticket fares will cost $17 for 10 tickets ($1.70 per ride) and $14 for 10 tickets for children ages 6-12 ($1.40 per ride).
Cash fare remains the same for both types of transportation at $3 for adults, seniors and students, and $1.75 for children.
Regular paper tickets and monthly passes (adult $88, student $64, senior $54) will be accepted on the Handi-Van service, as long as the passenger is a registered user of the service.
Presto cards can also be used on Handi-Vans starting Jan. 1, 2013, as long as the user is registered with the service.
Another big change is the implementation of the current two-hour open transfer policy used by the conventional system.
Registered Handi-Van Passengers also will be able to transfer at no extra charge between municipal providers, such as Oakville’s Care-A-Van or Hamilton’s DARTS services, as long as the transfer occurs within the two-hour limit, the passenger is also registered with the other municipal providers and an appointment is made for the transfer in advance with each service.
The recommended changes include the elimination of two of the city’s free and specialized fares on its conventional buses.
Free fares for passengers who are blind on conventional buses will no longer be provided.
Free fares for blind passengers with a valid CNIB card have been provided on conventional buses since 1976. Blind passengers make approximately 7,000 trips per year in Burlington.
Spicer said the city’s interpretation of the provincial legislation means that riders with specific disabilities cannot have a special fare. He referred to subsection 3 of Section 66, fare parity of the new AODA legislation, which states, “Where a transportation service provider provides both conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services, the transportation service provider shall ensure that there is fare parity between conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services.”
“In order to comply with the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) legislation, we had to do it by Jan. 1,” Spicer told the Post. “It was (a) very difficult (decision), because a program that has been in place for such a long time has now been taken away. From the good perspective, we are now not discriminating against one disability. There are going to be some people to be affected by this, but at the end of the day, to know our system is one system for all is a good news story for us.”
Also citing the city’s interpretation of the legislated requirement for consistency through fare parity, a special rate (10 tickets for $14) offered to employees of ARC Industries (Community Living Burlington) and attendees of Halton District School Board special learning programs since 1976 is also being revoked starting Jan. 1, 2013. These boardings accounted for approximately 2,600 trips per year.
Spicer says the city’s interpretation of the legislation is that they are required to get rid of specialized and free fares for riders with certain disabilities.
However, a statement from the Ministry of Community and Social Services says fare exceptions are at the discretion of each municipality.
“Providers of conventional transportation services may make the decision to charge less to a person with a disability than what is charged to passengers without disabilities as the City of Burlington has chosen to do in the past,” wrote ministry spokesperson Charlotte Wilkinson in an e-mail to the Post this week. “To be clear, the establishment of fares remains fully under the jurisdiction of municipalities. The goal of the transportation standard under the AODA (is) to ensure fare parity between people with disabilities and those without.”
Spicer told the Post the city requested and received further clarification from the ministry on the fare parity legislation this week. He said staff is moving forward, as planned, with council approval of the recommendations on Monday, Nov. 5.
“We know a number of residents have contacted the city in regards to the transit fare parity report and we’ve received several conflicting interpretations of this regulation,” Spicer said. “We believe our interpretation is appropriate, but because of the conflicting information, we have been in touch with the province in order to clarify the interpretation and the requirements in the regulation.”
Another change for Handi-Van users starting Jan. 1, 2013 is that they will no longer be able to purchase packages of tickets on the specialized buses.
Users looking to purchase paper tickets and paper monthly passes will need to go to one of the city’s ticket outlets, listed on Burlington Transit’s website at http://cms.burlington.ca/Page6100.aspx.
Spicer anticipates some Handi-Van riders will likely switch to the Presto system, which allows them to use a pre-loaded card that can be ordered and reloaded with cash in person at certain locations, by phone or online.
Spicer told the Post there were 58,383 Handi-Vans trips made in Burlington in 2011.
City staff says they expect a Handi-Van fare revenue reduction of approximately $40,600 in 2013 due to fare parity.
The loss in fares is partially being offset by an increase in fare revenues of approximately $21,400 based on the elimination of free fares for people who are blind and the elimination of the special rate.
To view the report, go to http://cms.burlington.ca/Page9370.aspx?DateTime=634867002000000000&PageMode=View .