On day three of Para Awareness Week, here is an interview with Mary Jane Clinkard who rides Para Transpo. She advocates not only for accessible transit, but also for access to fitness services, especially swimming facilities for people with disabilities.
Listen to her story here: https://youtu.be/i_43TZUeZxM
As part of Para Awareness Week 2021, we have conducted interviews with a few people who use Para Transpo. Here is a short video with Sally Thomas, a board member of the Ottawa Transit Riders and an active member of the #ParaParity campaign.
Click on link: https://youtu.be/p99LLGM1kqk
How well is Para Transpo protecting people from COVID?
By Sally Thomas
So, we are about 400 days into this global pandemic and I cannot help but feel like OC Transpo has more work to do to provide clear direction for folks using the bus as far as social distancing goes. There are definitely things about these safety measures that OC Transpo is doing well at; but one thing I feel still needs work is how we can best maintain social distancing measures on a bus. For a while people were not even permitted to board the front of the conventional bus unless they were using a mobility device or a stroller. That has now changed and anyone can board the front, if the driver will open the door. That is what is happening on the conventional…and I get it. Drivers are OC Transpo’s biggest asset and they have to do everything they can to protect them.
What I don’t understand and am becoming increasingly frustrated by is OC Transpo’s lack of attention to the well-being of both the drivers and users of Para Transpo. There are fewer people involved on the Para side; but Para Transp is still part of the OC Transpo transit system and deserves the same level of care. I’d like to see social distancing measures adhered to on Para too. That means that drivers should be picking up only one person requiring the front tie-down positions, even though there is space for two. On two different occasions this past week, drivers asked to put two of us in the front positions. When that happens, we can literally reach out and touch each other. Definitely not six feet! In the first instance, I got lucky. Another bus showed up and I convinced the driver to ask dispatch to make the change. In the second instance, I was the first passenger to board; but discovered we were picking up two more people on the way to my destination. Cases are climbing again here and I told the driver I wasn’t comfortable sitting that close to another wheelchair user I didn’t know. Again, he contacted dispatch and this time I was taken straight home before he went back for the other passengers. I’ve asked for OC Transpo’s stance on this and am awaiting a response. In the meantime, I am not taking any chances. Unless and until protocol dictates one user in the front tie-down at a time, I will be refusing rides.
I look forward to the day when leadership at OC Transpo recognizes Para Transpo as an equitable and equally important transit system and applies a similar level of resources to both.
What is Para Awareness Week? It’s a campaign to get people talking about Para Transpo - why it is important, and what needs to improve. We are talking to people who may not know much about Para Transpo.
Here is a short interview with Kyle Humphrey, founder of “No Such Thing as Can’t” and member of the #ParaParity campaign.
Click to watch the video: https://youtu.be/SmphRx23qGs
Why is Para Transpo important?
By Kyle Humphrey (No Such Thing as Can't) #ParaParity campaign
Imagine if you will, you’ve been out of work because of the pandemic, a prospective employer calls you one morning and asks to see you the next day. So you jump on a bus, take it to the LRT, and then grab a bus from wherever you need. It takes you about an hour. Your first bus was late, but things still worked out.
Now imagine you use a wheelchair and the same manager calls you. There’s snow on the ground a foot high, the cars have made little hills of snow that have frozen over. Thankfully in Ottawa there’s a service that exists that can pick someone up at one place, and drop them off at another for the same price as conventional transit.
Need to get to work? It can get you there.
Need to grab groceries? It can get you there too.
Have an appointment? It can be useful in getting you there.
Have plans with friends? The service can help.
Anything you can do on conventional transit is what you should be able to do, yes, even if you have mobility difficulties.
Need to get to work? It can get you there (As long as you give lots of notice, last minute shifts not accommodated).
Need to grab groceries? It can get you there too. (As long as you plan in advance, no last minute trips to pick up something you forgot)
Have an appointment? It can be useful in getting you there. (As long as you don’t need same-day service)
Have plans with friends? The service can help. (Unless you want to travel with them, or go somewhere spontaneously, or stay out later than planned).
Para Transpo can be better, and our goal is to help the city and OC Transpo company to better serve constituents in the city of Ottawa!
Right now with Para Transpo, clients must pre-book their bus a day in advance, starting at 7am the morning before, for a trip between 6am and 12am; that means no post-COVID partying until 2am for Para Transpo users.
There is no same-day option for booking, so there’s no jumping on a bus like your friends who have the option to use OC’s conventional transit. There is no option to tell the bus you want to “catch the next one.” There is no option to take the bus with your group of friends.
Your manager won’t be able to rely on you for same-day shifts. Your doctor won’t be able to fit you in for same-day appointments… among so many other issues that Para Transpo customers face.
It’s these things that make this service less equitable than its sister service. Sure, you’re picked up at a destination of your choosing… but if you have to give up all of the described social freedoms to use the service, it sends the idea that people who require accessible transit aren’t to be afforded equitable transit
Please stand with us in telling your city councillor that Para Transpo affects us all in one way or another, no matter if you’re a manager counting on your employee, a friend trying to be supportive, or someone fighting for social justice who found out the city called an emergency Transit Council meeting for the next morning at 9am.
Do you use ParaTranspo services in Ottawa? In preparation for ParaAwareness week (April 26th to 30th, 2021), we are asking people who use ParaTranspo to take this short (four-question) survey about COVID precautions, what accessible transit means for you, and what OC Transpo’s priorities for Para should be.
Your feedback will inform the ParaParity campaign in our efforts to improve accessible transit in Ottawa.
Utilisez-vous les services de ParaTranspo à Ottawa ? En préparation de la semaine de sensibilisation à ParaAwareness (du 26 au 30 avril 2021), nous demandons aux personnes qui utilisent ParaTranspo de répondre à ce court sondage (quatre questions) sur les précautions prises par COVID, ce que signifie pour vous le transport accessible et quelles devraient être les priorités d'OC Transpo pour Para.
Vos commentaires éclaireront la campagne ParaParité dans nos efforts pour améliorer l'accessibilité du transport en commun à Ottawa.
With No Emergency Operational Funding for Public Transit, the 2021 Federal Budget Leaves Riders Stranded
OTTAWA - Ottawa Transit Riders expressed their disappointment that the 2021 Federal Budget announced no new emergency operational funding for public transit. With the previous round of federal funding having expired at the end of March, public transit agencies like OC Transpo may be forced to make drastic service cuts.
Public transit agencies across Canada are all facing significant financial pressures due to the drop in ridership and lack of fare revenue. Recently, OC Transpo has suspended routes and reduced services in an effort to reduce costs. Without further emergency operational funding from the federal government, OC Transpo will be forced to make further reductions.
“Throughout this pandemic, public transit has been a lifeline for essential workers, seniors, people with disabilities, and newcomers who need access to reliable and accessible transit to get to work or medical appointments,” said Stuart MacKay, a Board Member of Ottawa Transit Riders. “Without further emergency operational funding, transit agencies like OC Transpo will be forced to cut back on services. This will hurt riders and our most marginalized citizens.”
Ottawa Transit Riders is a proud member of the Keep Transit Moving Coalition, a nationwide alliance of public transit advocacy groups. Last week, the Keep Transit Moving Coalition sent a letter to the Finance Minister asking her to extend emergency transit funding that they had committed earlier last year. Sixty organizations including large unions like CUPE, UNIFOR and PSAC and environmental organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation signed the letter, displaying large support across sectors. Further, a poll done with EKOS Research showed that over 70% of Canadians supported extending emergency transit operational funding.
For more information, please contact [email protected]
There are consultations underway right now to discuss upcoming expansion of our LRT. Please click on the link to see how you can weigh in.
The Ottawa Transit Riders see good quality public transit as a social good - something that benefits all residents whether they ride the buses or not. Here are some articles advancing the idea that good quality public transit is a social justice issue.
An article from Free Transit Toronto arguing that transit is a social justice issue and that we should be fighting for FREE transit.
Transit should be funded by taxes. It is a key tool in the battle against climate change and is essential in our transition to a greener future.
An article from Hamilton noting that the Federal government’s support for capital spending is nice, but that transit agencies really need operational funding to continue offering public service.
The article notes that 79% of Canadians support public funding of transit.
In an article about urban planning, the authors note that divergence between the US and most major European cities where the US focused on car dependence while many European cities supported public transportation systems. Canada falls in the middle.
The article lists 8 key benefits to robust public transit systems.
COVID has reduced revenue leading to cities cutting service. This leaves many people stranded and unable to get to work, see the doctor, get food or meet other basic needs.
The ParaParity campaign, a group dedicated to improving ParaTranspo services in Ottawa is launching a Para Awareness Week from April 26th to April 30th this year.
Many members of the Ottawa Transit Riders use mobility aids - some ride “regular” OC Transpo buses and some rely on ParaTranspo. It is absolutely essential that we fight for accessibility in our public transit system.
In November 2020, AMI, a non-profit media company produced a video talking to members of the #ParaParity campaign about their challenges getting around Ottawa. Several members of Ottawa Transit Riders, including Sally Thomas, a board member, were involved.
Whether you saw it in November or not, we are re-posting it here:
Please take a moment to watch: AMI on #ParaParity