Here’s a fantastic example of an outcome influenced by public opinion and concern. It goes to show that you should always try and let your voice be heard!
Niagara Specialized Transit Users Win Reprieve of Proposed Fare Increases
Written by Rhys Evans.
Hello my name is Rhys Evans I am currently a 24 year old Niagara College student currently enrolled in the Social Service Worker program. I am also a graduate of Niagara College’s Recreation and Leisure as well as Recreational Therapy programs. I value staying involved in my community by doing things like representing the town of Pelham on the Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee and participating in wheelchair basketball.
The Region of Niagara recently awarded BTS, a company from Vaughn, the Niagara Specialized Transit contract for transporting people with disabilities to medical appointments, school or employment. Part of the agreement was a proposed fare increase for riders, many of who are on fixed or reduced incomes. In some instances the increases would have been as great as 300%. I got a letter in the mail along with other users to inform us of these changes.
I was unhappy with the lack of any consultation, or any transparency in how this had been done. l was also angered by the proposed increases that would further limit people’s independence. I firstly contacted the Mayor of Pelham, Mr. Dave Augustyn with my concerns. I also used social media, letters to the local paper and spoke to the Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee (that I am a member of), in order to urge the council to reconsider the proposed increases.
Regional Council of Niagara discussed the concerns voiced by users like myself that were presented at their June 28th meeting, and made the decision to suspend the increases, and revisit the issue in 2017.
This date was chosen because the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act ( AODA ) will have enacted the Transportation Standard that will provide a clearer framework about what fare charges should be. The expectation is that fares will become more affordable for Ontarians with Disabilities.
Whatever the outcome, it is hoped that there is full consultation with the user group before any final decision is made, because no such consultation occurred this time, and if things had remained unchallenged many users may not have been able to continue with this vital service.
In the meantime those using the system are grateful to Regional Council that they can still attend medical appointments, therapies, and school or work at a reasonable cost. As a user and member of the Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee, I shall continue to monitor the progress on this issue and make the public aware of any future developments.