Para Transpo: The never ending battle for a smoother ride — part two

Para Transpo: The never ending battle for a smoother ride — part two

In this second part of a two-part series on Para Transpo, I’ll be discussing the fare structure, issues surrounding the use of the Presto card, and other concerns. Plus, I’ll talk about ParaParity, a local advocacy group.


Para Transpo Fare

Para Transpo users have a few options when it comes to fare payment. The fare structure is far more complicated than it needs to be. I’ll do my best to break it down. I apologize in advance if it comes across as confusing. It also confuses us as well.

Cash Fares (Per Ride):
If you choose to pay with cash, Children under five are free if accompanied by an adult. For Children aged 6-12, the price is $1.85. $3.60 for youth & adults that are over the age of 13. For Seniors 65 and older, it’s $2.70. If you’re travelling to a rural area, the cost is $9.50.

ParaPay:
ParaPay is for customers who aren’t able to use public transit. Once you open a ParaPay account, you can load money or a monthly pass, much like Presto, You can reload it by phone, online, mail, or in-person at an OC Transpo customer service kiosk.

The fares for ParaPay users is just five cents cheaper than regular fare when paying with cash.

Bus Passes:
The Equipass is available for people with low-income and is available for $58.25. However, if you’re part of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), you’re not eligible for the pass. Equipass users can reload their pass online, at OC Transpo kiosks, or City Hall Service Centres.

For those of you that are on ODSP, there’s the Presto Community Pass. Each month, users of this pass need to reload it at the cost of $43.25. Presto Community Passes can be reloaded online, at OC Transpo kiosks, at City Hall Client Service Centres, and also Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstores, & Shoppers Drugs Mart.

However, and this is the main issue that customers have with using Presto on Para Transpo, none of the vehicles have a tap machine.

Each time a passenger reloads their Presto Community Pass, they need to keep their receipt because Para Transpo drivers are supposed to check it. Once they see it and get your Presto card number, they write it down on a receipt pad and enter it into their onboard computer. Writing all of that can take upwards of three to five minutes each time a user boards. As you can imagine, this takes up a lot of the driver’s & passenger’s time. In a system where a driver is typically late primarily due to other people, it makes very little sense to expect the driver to write down this information multiple times a day. 

More information on bus fares & bus passes, including Para Transpo, can be found on the OC Transpo website.

ParaParity:
ParaParity is an advocacy group pushing for improving Para Transpo services. The group’s primary goal is to have Para Transpo be on par with what OC Transpo provides while also wanting public transportation to be accessible to all.

ParaParity started in April 2019, as part of the Ottawa Transit Riders Group, an initiative of the Healthy Transportation Coalition. ParaParity mostly consists of Para Transpo riders that are frustrated with the service (or lack of) and having their concerns ignored by the City.

Some of these concerns (in no particular order) include:

-- No Presto Card readers.

-- Not being able to locate your ride through a GPS on a device or by computer.

-- Trips being cancelled or rescheduled without the user’s consent.

-- Lack of drivers & vehicles.

-- Not being able to book a ride past midnight, except on New Year’s Eve, which the last trip is at 12:30 am.

-- Ongoing issues regarding online booking, as well as by phone.

-- More recently, some drivers refusing to wear face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

And much more.

It’s important to note that for many users, it’s their only mode of transportation. Many of the rides involve trips to much needed medical appointments, as well as social outings. People with disabilities must be able to get out with as little difficulty as possible while using a service that respects them and our human rights.

Members of ParaParity regularly attend Transit Commission meetings at City Hall to have our voices heard. Except for online booking, many of our concerns and possible solutions have fallen on deaf ears.

ParaParity is always looking for new members. As the saying goes, there’s strength in numbers.

If you or someone you know is interested in getting more information about ParaParity and their latest campaigns, please go to https://www.ottawatransitriders.ca/. They’re also on Facebook. Just look for Para Transpo Group Woes. If you’re on Twitter, search for the hashtag #ParaParity or #ParaTranspo.

That’ll about do it for me for now.

In my next column, I’ll be taking a look at adaptive technology. Without adaptive technology, I wouldn’t even be able to do this column and be a productive member of society.

If any of you have questions, feedback, or topic ideas, please feel free to reach out to me. You can contact me on Facebook or Twitter by typing in my name.