As free transit rolls on, many Para Transpo riders are left behind

Last week, I talked about Para Transpo and how free transit this month would affect their riders due to a shortage of drivers. I also created the hashtag #ParaTranspoInDecember for riders to report any delays and other barriers that interfered with their trips.

Since then, I have been on Para Transpo four times. I had two trips on Wednesday last week and two on Saturday. I count going somewhere and returning home as two trips. There are times where I take Para Transpo to my destination but take a Taxi home.

Much to my genuine surprise, all four rides showed up on time. My story doesn’t end there, though. When I tried to book my ride on Friday morning, I could not book my preferred time. When that happened, I was asked to pick another time. Fortunately, in this case, I was able to get a ride later. That’s not always the case.

Also, what if I had a medical appointment, an important meeting, or errands to do?

I need to be home by 4 pm so my PSW can end their shift and the next person can come in. While my situation may be unique, at least in some ways, other Para Transpo riders need to be home by a specific time, sometimes for a medical reason.

While on the subject of time. For both of my trips on Saturday, there was another person on the Para Transpo bus. Besides the fact that I consider it very risky during the ongoing pandemic, it also cuts into how much time I had.

For example, my plan on Saturday was to do some Christmas shopping. To me, having over ninety minutes should be enough time. Also, ninety minutes in a mall during the holidays is pretty much my limit as far as my patience goes.

My ride showed up at noon, but I didn’t get to St Laurent until almost 1 pm. With my ride home at 2:15 pm, I had just over an hour to complete my task. To be fair, I should point out that it was snowing, and the Santa Claus parade was wrapping up.

With that said, though, if Para Transpo had more drivers, both passengers and drivers would be at less risk of getting Covid, fewer delays, and we’d also be able to take advantage of “unlimited bookings.”

In the earlier days of Covid, Para Transpo had a policy where there would be only one passenger allowed on each ride. Exceptions were made for those who required a caregiver to be there, which is understandable. At some point between now and recent, that rule changed.

News flash, as frustrating as it is to repeat this time and time, the pandemic isn’t over yet.

The numbers have been on the rise. As long as people ignore it, the longer Covid will stick around.

When it comes to Para Transpo, I urge them to please return to having one passenger at a time. When a large percentage of its riders are elderly, immunocompromised, and with various medical conditions, they’re being put at added risk.

Will this cause further delays?

Absolutely! However, safety should be a top priority, especially when considering who uses the service. I also feel that Para Transpo should be checking proof of vaccines of their riders. I know that drivers wouldn’t check, but why not have another system in place?

Why should passengers be put at an added risk?

I don’t know if the other person has been vaccinated or had Covid. What happens if they can’t wear a mask or refuse to?

Until recently, I was under the impression that if you’re not wearing a mask, a Para Transpo driver can refuse to pick someone up. Now, I’m hearing different stories. Hopefully, I can get clarification.

Getting back to my original topic, the city of Ottawa NEEDS to hire more drivers. A shortage of drivers has been an issue for a very long time, so that’s not news. What is news to me is that the city agreed to have unlimited bookings when all public transportation is free this month.

The city is overloading the system, and because of that, several Para Transpo customers cannot leave their homes.

What kind of city are we living in where people with disabilities feel even more disabled?

Just a gentle reminder.

If you experience any delays or anything affecting your trip on Para Transpo this month, please let me know by using the hashtag #ParaTranspoInDecember on social media.