Hear it from Rhys: Niagara Specialized Transit

Rhys’ take on Niagara’s Specialized Transit!

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.

Rhys Evans

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.

Side view of Niagara Specialized Transit bus

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.

 

LIFE weighs in on recent TTC “Stay Focused. Stay Safe.” awareness campaign

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written by Amy Kostash and Danielle Hepburn

One component of our Learning Independence for Future Empowerment (LIFE) Toronto program is transit training. This allows participants to get one-on-one assistance using the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to get to a destination of their choice; usually back home from our national office. During our transit training sessions, we cover everything there is to know about the TTC from safe use procedures to its accessibility and planning our route. For the individuals in the LIFE Toronto program, this transit training provides an alternative to Wheel Trans should they feel comfortable enough taking it on their own.

Recently, the TTC published a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of focus in order to stay safe. These posters can be seen on subway platforms, subway trains, and buses. We asked the participants of our LIFE Toronto program their thoughts on these new posters.

Stay Focused Graphics

The first poster shows a woman in a wheelchair using the deployed ramp of a bus while a pedestrian is running past, unaware of the ramp. The message this poster aims to spread is that pedestrians need to be more aware of ramps and the potential they could be deployed at any time, and may cause a tripping hazard. The second poster shows a gentleman in a power wheelchair waiting for the bus while pedestrians hurry past him. The message this poster aims to send is that persons with a disability and/or mobility devices are to be the first to board the bus and the last to disembark.

First, we asked the LIFE Toronto group if any of them had experienced being cut off by pedestrians while waiting for, or getting on their Wheel Trans rides. 4 of the 5 participants say they have been cut off while the ramp of their Wheel Trans ride was deployed. Tyler says “these signs are necessary because people cut us off and don’t know that I have the right of way when getting on a bus.” Jess added that “these posters may not work, the buses already beep and drivers will yell at people, so I’m not sure that a visual poster will necessarily help.”

Another concern that the group had was the use of the selected images on the posters. Both depict the wrong way of doing things! Instead, our group thinks it would be much more effective if the posters showed pedestrians correctly using the TTC and allowing persons with disabilities the right of way. If people don’t take the time to read the message on the poster, there is a chance they could just end up adopting the wrong behaviour after all.

These posters allowed for some interesting discussion in our LIFE Toronto workshops. The group came to the conclusion that it is too early to tell if these ads are working. It will be interesting to see if the attitudes of people change based on the presence of these posters. Also, the group thought it might be interesting to create a poster or image with the same message but from the perspective of an individual in a wheelchair that shows the implications of pedestrians failing to give them the right of way.