A reminder to City Hall and to the media

— Para Transpo riders and people with disabilities also deserve better!

At this point, you don’t need me to talk about the LRT. There are already enough local media outlets talking all about the LRT. However, I will talk about another transit service run by OC Transpo and the city that both the media, City Hall, and countless others casually ignore.

Of course, I’m talking about Para Transpo.

I do apologize for making it seem like I’m repeating myself. Trust me; I’d much rather talk about other things. Since I seem to be the only one in the local media talking about Para Transpo right now, though, and, in general, I’m the go-to guy, I guess.

I’ll give you a brief run-down for those just tuning in or who don’t know what Para Transpo is.

Para Transpo is a door-to-door public transportation service for people with disabilities living in Ottawa. Their vehicles consist of mini-buses with a ramp and wheelchair tie-downs. Para Transpo also has both wheelchair-accessible taxis and regular taxi cabs available to those that are physically able to use them. When it comes to getting a ride, Para Transpo users must book their ride on the before.

On the surface, it sounds like a great idea, especially the part about it being a door-to-door service. I’m sure many would love that during the winter. I will admit that the service is good when it works.

The key phrasing here is when it works. The service hasn’t worked for a very long time.

Let me take that back for a second.

Much like the LRT, during the lockdown, Para Transpo service was working. The reason for that was simply because most people with disabilities were staying home. Now that more places are opening up and more are going out, Para Transpo service is slowly returning to normal.

For Para Transpo users, this means longer wait times, and having more difficulties with booking trips, and in some cases, not being able to book trips.

So, let’s break this down, one by one.

Long wait times:

Since the LRT has been down, the most common thing that I’ve heard is people saying that they sometimes have to wait for 30, 60 minutes, or longer for an OC Transpo bus. Para Transpo users have had the same issue for years. Para Transpo users also rely on the service to get to and from work, medical appointments,  social gatherings, grocery shopping, and the list goes on. Users of Para Transpo go to the same places for the same reasons as OC Transpo riders.

The ONLY difference is that the media and city hall are CHOOSING to focus on able-bodied residents of Ottawa and ignoring the same issues that have been happening for years with Para Transpo.

Difficulties with booking trips:

Let’s imagine that I have a medical appointment. My medical appointment is at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday. On the day before, which is a Monday. Monday morning, I wake up and hop onto my computer. I go to the Para Transpo website to book rides for there and back. I choose 10 a.m. to leave my place to see my Doctor. While I’m on the Para Transpo website, I choose 1:30 p.m. for my return trip to go home. After I finish typing all of the information, I submit it to Para Transpo. A little while later, I find out from them that 10 a.m. is all booked up.

So, what should I do?

Well, in theory, I could see if 10:15 or 10:30 are available. The thing is, though, the later I book, the less chance I have of actually getting there in time to see my Doctor. I could try to take a wheelchair-accessible taxi cab through any taxi companies IF a driver with a wheelchair-accessible van is available. The other thing to consider is that depending on how far I’m going, a Taxi can be pretty expensive, especially if it’s also my only way home. In this case, I’d either need to use my already minimal monthly amount of money from ODSP to pay extra for a cab so I can get to my medical appointment. If I don’t have enough money for a taxi, my only other option is to stay home and put my health and well-being on hold.

I want to clarify that some people with disabilities can’t take Taxis, even ones that are wheelchair accessible. Also, many people with disabilities cannot use Uber or any of the other similar services.

In closing, I want to say something to all of the city councillors, transportation board members, the Mayor, and the media:

Enough is enough. Please stop treating people with disabilities like outsiders. We live, work, and play in this city just like everyone else. We use public transportation as well. We are also tired of waiting hours for transportation. Please include people with disabilities and Para Transpo when discussing anything related to improving OC Transpo and the LRT.

We also deserve a safe and reliable public transportation service.