• By: Ryan Lythall

PWD Demands Left Behind as On-Demand Service Arrives

Last Thursday, city staff decided that Blackburn Hamlet would be a good area to begin the test pilot to see if on-demand transit service would work in Ottawa.

A Para Transpo bus will be used as part of the test pilot. Users will be able to book a ride through a smartphone app or by calling OC Transpo’s customer service.

Also included in the report to the Transit Commission was that all booked trips would start and end at or near Blair Station.

The report will be presented to the Transit Commission on Thursday, September 14th.

For those who don’t live in Ottawa, Blackburn Hamlet is located in the city’s east end. As for my thoughts, it shows just how clueless city staff are about Para Transpo and the concerns of those who rely on its service.

For years, we’ve dealt with continuous delays when getting Para Transpo to pick us up and drop us off at our destinations. Between those trips, there are often other passengers on board, or the driver must pick up and drop them off along the way.

For OC Transpo and LRT users, pick-ups and drop-offs typically only take a few seconds at each stop. However, on Para Transpo, pick-ups and drop-offs take at least a few minutes, in addition to travel time. Those few minutes can make a huge difference regarding Para Transpo being delayed.

Other reasons for delays include:

– A shortage of drivers and vehicles, especially on weekends and holidays.

– Bad GPS programming

– Unclear directions and answers from the dispatcher.

– Poor management

– Poor training given to new Para Transpo drivers.

– Too many Para Transpo buses breaking down and being out of service for repairs.

– Lack of care, priority, and understanding by the City regarding the needs of Para Transpo users.

With all that in mind, again, I will ask the following questions:

– How does the city think that on-demand service will help?

– How many of our new city councillors have ever experienced being on Para Transpo during a typical day? If none, why not?

– How many members of the city’s Transit Commission have ever experienced being on Para Transpo during a typical day? If none, why not?

– What qualifies them to know what is best for us?

– Why are other transportation issues, such as OC Transpo bus service, LRT, Bike paths, and more, being addressed while users of Para Transpo continue to be ignored?

Those types of questions NEED to be addressed by the city, local media, and Para Transpo users.

Whenever a story about public transit in Ottawa is covered, the reporter or news anchor typically asks what I consider to be “softball” questions that only relate to OC Transpo bus service or LRT.

Little do they realize that transit issues also affect Para Transpo users, at least one way or another. They also fail to understand that people with disabilities use OC Transpo buses and LRT.

Sometimes, we also use wheelchair-accessible taxis, which is another thing that both the city and the media forget far too often.

Let me make it as simple as possible: People with disabilities also go out, and it should be as easy for us to get around as anyone else.

Easy isn’t the right word, but at the very least, our concerns should be acknowledged and taken seriously.

As mentioned in my column last week, a public meeting will be held in the Jean Pigott Hall at City Hall from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

This meeting aims to have our new city councillors and the new mayor meet face-to-face with Para Transpo users, listen to our concerns, and understand our needs.

The public is invited to attend this meeting to show their support, voice their concerns, or learn more about our ongoing challenges regarding Para Transpo.

For more information, please visit https://www.ottawatransitriders.ca/paratranspo_awareness_2023 or email Stuart Mackay at ottawatransitriders@gmail.com.