Here is an interview with John Redins who uses ParaTranspo and is an advocate for accessibility in Ottawa
KARI: Tell me a little about yourself. I hear that you once ran for public office. How long have you used ParaTranspo and how long have you been involved in public advocacy?
JOHN: I'm 55 years young from Northwestern Ontario where I sat on many committees of council in my hometown of Schreiber including Parks and Recreation, Committee Chair of Economic Development, OPP Community Policing Chair and Chair of a Community Festival.
I moved to Ottawa over 16 years ago and became a member of Ottawa ACORN. I suffered a mobility issue with both my hips locked up. As I waited for surgery, I realized there needs to be a voice for people with disabilities. I ran three times for a smaller political party in Ottawa South at the provincial level and ran for the Green Party of Canada in 2015. I also ran in two municipal elections and I was asked to put my nomination forward for both the possibility of a Federal and Provincial election next year.
KARI: We are well aware that service standards for ParaTranspo are not adequate. Can you list 3-4 of your top priorities for making ParaTranspo service better?
Equitable fares (stop charging Para customers extra to get to places like Manotick)
Full implementation of the Presto Card, not partial fixes
Completion of the Phone App
Same day bookings
KARI: The city made some promises last year – online booking, new drivers, for example. Are you happy with the changes that OC Transpo has made? How has the implementation of online booking changed your experience?
JOHN: The process has been very slow. OC Transpo’s priority has and always will be regular passenger service. The ParaParity campaign (supported by the Ottawa Transit Riders and Healthy Transportation Coalition) have put Para issues on the table. I would like to see the Transit Commission meeting add a standing agenda item to discuss ParaTranspo concerns at every meeting.
KARI: Customers of ParaTranspo are unhappy that they continue to use a system of payment that requires copying down card numbers rather than the contact-less options that customers on regular buses use. You are participating in a pilot project to test a way to use Presto on ParaTranspo. Can you give us some details? Will it be just for people with passes or also those paying per ride? How is the pilot project progressing?
JOHN: Yes, I am one of the volunteer testing the Presto card on ParaTranspo. At the moment, it works if you have a bus pass – you can just tap and go. But it doesn’t work if you want a top up fare. I have been told that it will be in the next update, but as usual, there is no date for when this will happen.
KARI: Is there anything else that you would like people in Ottawa to understand about barriers to accessibility in Ottawa?
JOHN: The thing about accessibility is that it isn’t enough to be partially accessible. Low floor buses are great, but what happens when sidewalks aren’t plowed? People who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs struggle when pavement is uneven or doesn’t line up with the next sidewalk. A customer got stuck a few weeks ago when she disembarked from a bus and discovered that the bus stop had no curb cut to allow her off the island.
Winter causes other challenges. Paths and sidewalks near low income areas are very dangerous for people using canes, wheelchairs, and walkers with the continuous snow-freezing-rain cycle. These areas lack daily inspections and are often not adequately cleared or monitored.
We need planners to consult with people with disabilities before and during construction. It’s cheaper to build right than to fix after.