No access to taxis

James
James McLeod
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Accessible cab licences available; not financially viable yet, industry says

During a comprehensive review of the city's para-transit system for people with disabilities, one of the major conclusions was that St. John's needs wheelchair accessible taxis - badly.

In 2004, the city approved 10 licences for accessible taxis. Unfortunately, no one has come forward to claim one of the licences.

During a comprehensive review of the city's para-transit system for people with disabilities, one of the major conclusions was that St. John's needs wheelchair accessible taxis - badly.

In 2004, the city approved 10 licences for accessible taxis. Unfortunately, no one has come forward to claim one of the licences.

Now, the review recommends a stronger push, including forcing cab companies to have at least one accessible car, subsidizing the cost of outfitting a van with a wheelchair ramp, and subsidizing cab fare for disabled people to relieve the overwhelmed para-transit system.

"We need to work with the taxi industry to find funding to make it viable," said Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth, who is council's representative on the para-transit committee.

"The taxi guys I talk to, both the owners and the operators, there is an interest in having a para-transit system of some sort for accessible taxis."

One of the major stumbling blocks is the cost of retrofitting a minivan with the necessary equipment to be able to bring a heavy, powered wheelchair onboard, a cost which Ellsworth said is around $20,000.

"I did a lot of research into the costs, and the business plan on it and I was almost there," said Tom Hollett, owner of Jiffy Cabs. "Just to put on 10 cars would have cost probably pretty close to a quarter of a million dollars."

Many operators see the money which St. John's puts into the other transportation systems, and balk at going it alone.

"You have the buses which are heavily subsidized, you have the Wheelway which is heavily subsidized, but in the case of the actual accessible taxis all they've done is say 'we'll give you a licence if you'll do it yourself," Hollett said.

One intermediate step which the para-transit review explores is to use regular taxis as an alternative to the big Wheelway buses on which the system currently relies.

The cost of a para-transit run for the city is about $10, and many users of the system who are blind or who use folding wheel chairs could travel in a regular taxi for a much cheaper price.

The report is still in draft form with public consultation scheduled for mid-August before a final version is passed by council. It's unlikely any measures forcing cab companies to do anything will be in that final version, since without a business model, forcing companies to have accessible cabs won't work.

"What accessible cabs would do is give the disabled population and the seniors population a choice which under the present system they don't have," said Cecil Whitten, who chairs the para-transit committee. "You have to convince the industry that there is money there."

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: St. John's

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Recent comments

  • taxi
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Hey G man I was wondering what you do to consider yourself better than the rest of us.......

  • g-man
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    HOW LAZY ARE TAXI DRIVERS AT ALL !!!

  • taxi
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Hey G man I was wondering what you do to consider yourself better than the rest of us.......

  • g-man
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    HOW LAZY ARE TAXI DRIVERS AT ALL !!!