I have recently helped a friend obtain an EquiPass and I am once again horrified and frustrated at the process. I have previously joked that it is more difficult than applying for a passport, but in truth, it felt like performing an arcane ritual.
A quick reminder that the EquiPass is a reduced fare card for residents on low income.
I helped my friend gather proof that she met the low income criteria and we sent in her application.
Two months later, a woman from OC Transpo called her but because my friend does not speak English very well, she was confused.
(By the way, there is a question on the application asking if applicants have trouble communicating to add a contact person. I was listed as my friend’s contact person, but was not contacted.)
I called OC Transpo to ask what was going on and spoke to a very nice person who gave me step-by-step directions:
- Buy a new card (because her previous card has been deactivated)
- Create a new account
- Register her card
- Wait 24 hours
- Tap her card
- Add money to card (or buy a pass)
I walked my friend through each step over the phone, but I made a mistake too. When Presto asked what we were trying to do, I guessed “activate a card” which was the wrong answer so we had to do it all over again.
How many low income residents of Ottawa struggle with English or French? How many get confused by the unclear directions? Why are there so many steps?
Low income residents need transit more than anyone.
These barriers seem like a deliberate attempt to limit access.
Here is Ottawa Transit Riders’ proposal. Low income residents should be able to walk into a customer service centre with their application and documentation and walk out with an EquiPass.
If it is essential to register a card, instructions should be made available in multiple languages.
Transit is an equity issue … let’s take down the barriers.