A new 20-cent fee could soon be tacked on to every taxi and ride-hailing service trip to fund improvements to accessible cab service for Calgarians with disabilities.
A city committee voted unanimously Wednesday to fund a $1.5-million incentive program aimed at getting more accessible taxis on the road.
The per-trip surcharge was approved at a meeting that saw several Calgarians come forward with stories of long waits for accessible taxis — sometimes leaving them stranded for hours — and tales of indifferent service that left them feeling like objects to be “stored” in the back of vans or buses.
“It was very moving today to hear about people who wait for five hours when they’ve been promised a taxi and it never arrives — it’s humiliating, it’s dehumanizing,” said Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, chair of the community and protective services committee.
“We have a long way to go but we need to do it in a short period of time.”
The city requires around 11 per cent of taxis in Calgary to be accessible, which amounts to 189 vehicles, but committee members heard Thursday that the actual number of accessible cabs may be far less; one estimate from the chair of the city’s advisory committee on accessibility pegged the number at closer to 63.
A proposal from Coun. Jyoti Gondek to pilot a centralized dispatch service for accessible cabs also earned unanimous support from the committee.
If the pilot is approved by council, administration would begin exploring options for a service that would allow Calgarians to book myriad accessible ride options, including transit, through a single dispatch service.
“People with disabilities requiring accessible service have to settle for a standard far below regular service,” said Jack Smart, a longtime member of the city’s advisory group on accessibility to committee members.
“Administration has been listening, I believe, more to the complaints of the service providers versus what is important and vital service for the disabled community.”
The proposed surcharge and pilot program will go to council for final approval later this month.