Chris Herhalt, Record staff
May 28, 2012
WATERLOO REGION — Users of Grand River Transit’s accessible MobilityPLUS vans will soon see more vehicles on the road and more flexible fare options, according to the service’s latest business plan.
Up until July 1 of this year, users of the region’s wheelchair accessible vans would have to purchase special tickets in order to ride, at a cost of $2.50 per ticket. After July 1, MobilityPLUS riders will be able to purchase regular tickets or passes at the same price as other GRT riders.
“This is now wonderful for me. Because now I can use a senior’s ticket,” Regional Active Transportation Committee member Sue Morgan said. “Now it will be really cheap.”
Passengers with MobilityPLUS memberships ride for free on conventional GRT buses. GRT’s fleet of accessible vans will have grown by four vehicles between 2011 and 2015.
Disabled passengers must be offered the same fare options as all other transit users, according to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
All of this will cost the GRT a great deal, according to director of transit Eric Gillespie. “(MobilityPLUS) is a more costly service. With it, we take passengers door to door.”
Morgan commended the excellent service she receives when using MobilityPLUS. “If I keep my keys in my lock, most of the drivers will come up and lock (my door) for me.”
Gillespie said that although the region has budgeted for the lower revenues from MobilityPLUS vans, they must control costs by convincing more limited-mobility riders to use conventional GRT buses, or taxis.
“We need to try to contain costs,” Waterloo Regional councillor Sean Strickland said. “The more users of MobilityPLUS that are capable of using our conventional transit, I think it’s quite legitimate for us to do whatever we can to convince those folks to use conventional transit.”
The 2012-2016 business plan calls for more disabled riders to make use of accessible taxis instead of MobilityPLUS vans. GRT hopes to see accessible taxis made 85,000 trips per year by 2016, up from 70,000 in 2011. The region covers 50 per cent of the cost of accessible taxi trips through a program called Taxi Scrip.
There are 15 wheelchair accessible taxis in use in the region. Tony Araujo, president of Waterloo Taxi, owns three of those taxis and frequently drives them.
“One of my (accessible) vans is doing during the day about five wheelchairs per day each,” Araujo said. “The rest of the he’s taking normal passengers.”
The business plan reports that some urban users of accessible taxis have complained about lateness or unreliability, but Araujo insists wheelchair-bound customers are a priority for his company.
“I will drive a van from Conestoga Mall to Fairview to pick up a wheelchair bound customer,” Araujo said.
Eligibility for MobilityPLUS
Riders must be:
- Unable to step aboard a conventional GRT bus
- Unable to walk a distance of 175 metres
- Suffer from a temporary disability, such as a broken leg
- Registered with CNIB