FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA - Community groups are raising the alarm about a new proposal from OC Transpo to use "idle" Para Transpo buses to fill the fleet for a test program to pilot the first phase of its on-demand or "microtransit" service.
At the Transit Commission meeting, last Thursday, Transit GM, Renee Amilcar revealed that OC Transpo would be looking to use "idle" paratransit buses for its new on-demand service which has also been criticized by other groups as a potential cut to existing transit routes.
Community organizations Ottawa Transit Riders, StopGap Ottawa, Horizon Ottawa and Free Transit Ottawa are surprised to learn that there are idle paratransit buses at all given the horror stories and difficulty many Para users have spoken about in the past several months and years due to a lack of capacity and funding.
Many paratransit riders, like Sally Thomas, have complained about wait times that can be as long as 1 to even 3 or 5 hours, missing out on job opportunities, only being able to ride until midnight and the four ride per day cap that currently exists on ParaTranspo.
"Para Transpo users have been asking for improvements to capacity for years! A few weeks ago, I waited until 5:10 P.M. for a ride scheduled for 4:00, to go to work. Wait times like this are not uncommon," said Sally Thomas, a member of Ottawa Transit Riders. "To suggest that ParaTranspo buses are idle is continued blatant disrespect of the disabled community."
Kenzie McCurdy, a member of Ottawa’s disabled community and a representative of StopGap Ottawa, an organization that engages the community to build portable Stopgap ramps for businesses with single step entrances, echoed the concerns of Thomas and Ottawa Transit Riders and called on OC Transpo to listen to disabled riders who have long been ignored by the transit agency, she asserts:
“To hear that Para Transpo not only has idle buses while its users are being denied trips or waiting for late buses, but that plans for those idle buses are to augment regular OC Transpo service is a blatant ableist slap in the face,” said McCurdy. “How can OC Transpo justify this project given the incredible deficiencies that already exist with Para Transpo service? It’s incredibly insulting to the disabled community.”
The new on-demand service is in theory supposed to "complement existing service"; however it seems to be a recipe for even worse services, both for para users and those who use other transit services.
"When a transit agency invests in microtransit, it is often doing so instead of running more fixed-route service. That’s the frame in which we must understand microtransit proposals" said Sam Hersh, a Board member of Horizon Ottawa. "On-demand transit is not a silver bullet to fix our transit woes but a Band-Aid idea for a system that needs real solutions like expanding dedicated bus lanes, community routes, Para Transpo service, and lowering fares."
For Media Inquiries:
Ottawa Transit Riders