Sally Thomas takes Renee Amilcar on Para

Written by Sally Thomas, Para Ambassador

As part of Ottawa Transit Riders’ Para Transpo Challenge, I reached out to General Manager of Transit Service Renée Amilcar and her team. After some negotiations we decided to meet at City Hall on May 7. Initially, Mme Amilcar asked if her whole team could accompany us on the trip. I politely explained that there are several ambassadors involved in the initiative and her team was invited to reach out to others individually.

Blessed with good weather, I wheeled to City Hall to meet with Jason Ashton, Program Manager of OC Transpo ahead of our ride. Jason is new to the position and did not attend our meeting in the fall. We had a good conversation about what our needs are and what his role would be in working with us.

It took us almost a full hour from our pickup time to when we were dropped off, to go from City Hall to St. Laurent Shopping Centre. Renée joined us only two minutes before our scheduled pickup time and shortly thereafter shared with us that she had to be back at City Hall for a 4:00 meeting; news to both Jason and me, as she had initially cleared her afternoon. After 10 minutes of waiting, Renée wanted to know where the bus was. Took the opportunity to point out that according to their own metrics, Para is not even late until they are thirty minutes past your pickup time. We got one of the newer drivers and had a pickup on the way to our destination. We spent eight minutes looking for the other customer. Renée pointed out the obvious that waiting for people for that long isn’t fair to customers and slows the service down. Once on the bus, the other passenger eventually figured out who Renée was and brought up many other issues for her as someone with a visual impairment. I do not know what they were because they spoke in French.

Our bus on the way back was more than 30 minutes late, which gave us time to discuss the ParaParity needs more broadly. Not surprisingly, Renée was non-committal on anything, but agreed that Para users should have the flexibility of booking rides based on when they want to arrive at their destination and not just when they want to leave. She also related that in Montreal, their system gives people a 10-minute warning that their rides are on the way. That should decrease the times people are not ready and waiting.

I got a lot more commitment from Jason than I did Renée herself. I look forward to keeping in touch with him. 

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