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MAAC Hopes to Entice Cab Owners to Acquire Accessible Taxis

A brand new and fully accessible taxi vehicle is on the market at a price that might be better than expected by the taxi companies in Timmins. Len Gillis
Published on: September 20, 2018

Timmins resident David Rivard navigates his motorized wheelchair down the ramp from an accessible van that was set up on display in the Urban Park on Thursday. While Timmins taxi companies have not yet purchased a properly equipped accessibility taxi vehicle, there was one on display Thursday at the Urban Park Farmers’ Market in downtown Timmins. The vehicle was provided by Overland Custom Coach to demonstrate that such vehicles are on the market and at price that Overland said is not prohibitive for the cab companies.

A brand new and fully accessible taxi vehicle is on the market at a price that might be better than expected by the taxi companies in Timmins.

The Overland Custom Coach company was in Timmins Thursday to show off one of their latest models, a Dodge van that is customized to handle a wheelchair or a mobility scooter.

Overland brought a customized accessible taxi van to the Downtown Timmins Urban Park Farmer’s Market Thursday just to show what is available to the market.

It was almost a year ago that the Timmins Police Services Board, which oversees the taxi bylaw in Timmins, agreed to allow for additional taxi licences to accommodate the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

That means any taxi company in Timmins that wants to provide the service only has to ask for a licence if they provide the proper vehicle.

There are two taxi companies in Timmins; Vet’s Taxi which has several independent brokers and Northern Taxi, a newer company that has been in business for only a few years.

So far, neither company has acquired an accessible taxi or an accessible taxi licence.

Overland Custom Coach representative David Branston said his visit came at the suggestion of Timmins Transit officials he met at a recent trade show. His company has provided Timmins Transit with Handy-Transit vehicles.

He said accessible taxis operate in other Ontario cities and have been found to be useful in that the vehicles can serve as a conventional cab or as a proper accessibility cab, when it is needed.

As he demonstrated the various features of the customized Dodge van, Branston said the price was not prohibitive.

He said the cost of the accessible vehicle for use in the taxi business would be in the range of $50,000 to $60,000 depending on the features. The vehicle he brought to Timmins could be priced around $55,000, he said.

During discussions held at the TPS Board last year, local taxi officials said the cost of an accessible van for taxi service could run between $150,000 and $200,000.

Branston said one of the key features of the Overland vehicle is how easy it can accommodate customers in mobility scooters or wheelchairs. A low-level ramp is pulled out from the passenger side of the van, the wheelchair rolls up, gets strapped in with heavy floor-mounted strapping devices and the trip begins.

Branston said some customers prefer to ride up front, instead of sitting in the area behind the driver. In that case, he said, the front passenger seat can be pulled back and the wheelchair can roll forward and be locked in to the front passenger space. He added that four additional seats in the van will allow wheelchair users to travel with friends and family members.

The accessible taxi van demonstration was welcomed by Dan McKay, a local advocate with the Timmins Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC). McKay attended the demonstration and told reporters the cab would fill a gap in service for people with mobility issues.

The Timmins Handy-Transit system operates within the hours of regular bus service, but there is limited service on weekends and no service on statutory holidays. While Handy-Transit users pay the same fares as Timmins Transit users, they must be registered and have to phone ahead to make a reservation for being picked up as well as for the return trip back home. An accessible taxi service would provide on-demand service around the clock at regular taxi rates.

McKay said the MAAC group is hoping either Vets, Northern or both cab companies will consider purchasing an accessible van. He said MAAC is willing to subsidize the purchase up to $10,000 per vehicle.

“The ball’s in the court of the owners of the cab companies,” said McKay. He added that the funding for MAAC comes from the fines levied on motorists who illegally park their vehicles in designated handicapped parking spaces.

As the demonstration for the van was underway, one city resident David Rivard navigated his motorized wheelchair up the ramp and into the van to check it out. Rivard spent several minutes chatting with Branston, the Overland representative.

Afterwards, Rivard said if the van was purchased by a cab company he would indeed use it. He said he is a regular user of Handy-Transit, but said it has limitations. He said he liked that the accessible taxi van would provide him with a new option for travel.

He said a regular accessible taxi would be useful for medical appointments and other everyday outings. He also mentioned it would be nice to go out with friends for an evening social event, without having to wrap things up by 11 p.m. which is how late the Handy-Transit will operate.

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