Monday, October 3, 2011

Inequitable Access to Transit: A Human Rights Violation

Since the Integrated Accessibility Regulation (IAR) came out, Kingston has found ways to delay better accommodating people who use wheelchairs.

They've shelved the taxi project (to bring back accessible taxis) indefinitely, Kingston Access Bus will no longer be moving forward to align the cost of their buses with Kingston Transit, and the Municipal Transportation Subsidy to help low-income Kingstonian’s pay for the bus, will not be expanded to cover the cost of the Access Bus because the city holds no contract with the service.

Kingston Access Bus is a non-profit charitable organization so, without the city holding a contract and giving them more funds to use to buy a fare collection system similar to that used by Kingston Transit, I don’t see how they can realistically be expected to align their fare structure either. I find it shocking that, in effect, the City of Kingston does not provide any accessible public transit at all, to its citizens.

Rather than just listening to me, I’ll let you, the reader determine the truth of this for yourself. I’ll share quotes from relevant source files, along with as many links as possible.

Proof the City has no contract with the Access Bus.
This excerpt was taken from a document written in January 2011 to provide legal advice to city councillors by the City Solicitor, Hal Linscott. Note how he advises counsellors that Kingston Access Services is a non-profit charitable organization, the city holds no contract with them, and there is no obligation to give them money:
Kingston Access Services
Kingston Access Services Kingston Bus for the Handicapped, carrying on business as Kingston Access Services (“KAS”) is a charitable not for profit corporation incorporated by a number of individuals in 1967 under Letters Patent from the Province of Ontario. KAS is not a local board, agency or authority of the City. KAS by-laws provide that up to two members of City Council may sit on its Board of Directors.

The KAS mission statement is “to provide, in a safe and courteous manner, a reliable, efficient, transit service for persons having impaired mobility”. KAS oversees the operation of the Kingston Access Bus, the Kingston Area Patients Shuttle and a “dial a bus” service in rural areas of the City for Kingston Transit.

The City provides funding to assist KAS in paying for its operations, which are not fully funded from passenger revenue and other sources of revenue. Although there is no legal requirement for the City to provide funding for KAS, the City has the authority to do so should Council determine that is appropriate.

KAS by-laws provide that the Board cannot voluntarily dissolve the organization without the ratification by City Council of the Board’s motion to dissolve. Upon dissolution, any assets net of debts and liabilities are required to be distributed to charitable organizations. (Source: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/pdf/council/agenda/2011/COW_A0111-11068.pdf).

Proof the Taxi project has been put on hold until further notice:
From the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee Agenda about taxi’s:

MEETING Transportation Working Group 08 Jun11

2. BUSINESS OLD BUSINESS

A. Accessible On-Demand Taxi’s

Under Old Business we spoke of Accessible Taxis. In regards to Accessible-on-Demand Taxis questions arose :

(i) Where is this issue now? The next meeting of the KATC will take place following the summer, probably in September.

(ii) Could a request be put forth for an Interim Decision thru Julie prior to The next meeting?; and

(iii) Do you think the City will meet this goal?

Subsequent to the MEETING OF THE MAAC COMMITTEE 02 Jun 11, Accessible On Demand Taxis is in abeyance until further notice. No further action will be taken by the Transportation Working Group until further notice or direction has be given by the City Representative – Julie Salter-Keene to the MAAC (Source: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/pdf/cityhall/committees/accessibility/agendas/2011/MAA_0711-SchedC.pdf).

Proof of how the Municipal Transportation Subsidy only applies to Kingston Transit:

Excerpts from the Municipal Fee Assistance Program

The Affordable Transit Pass - access to a renewable reduced-cost monthly transit pass. The discount is good for a full year after approval. The 32 per cent discount makes Monthly My Cards $46.50 for Adults, $34.25 for Youth and $31.50 for Seniors. Full price Monthly My Cards are $68.25 for Adults, $50.50 for Youth, and $46.25 for Seniors. (Source: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/residents/transportation/transit/fee-assistance/index.asp)

Proof that funding to Kingston Access Bus is not considered a public transit expense:
In the 2011 Operating Budget, note how Kingston Transit expenditures are posted on page 4 & 15 and Kingston Access Bus expenditures are posted as an administrative cost on page 19. http://www.cityofkingston.ca/pdf/budget/2011_OperatingBudget.pdf.

Proof that Kingston Access Bus won’t be aligning the bus fares for now:

(This is copied from the AGM minutes for Kingston Access Services - the information is public and can be received on request by emailing kab@kingston.net)
Fare parity:
The new regulation reads:
66. (1) Where conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services are provided by separate transportation service providers in the same jurisdiction, the specialized transportation service provider shall not charge more than the highest fare charged for conventional transportation services in the same jurisdiction.
(2) Specialized transportation service providers shall meet the requirements of subsection (1) by January 1, 2017.
(3) Where a transportation service provider provides both conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services, the transportation service provider shall ensure that there is fare parity between conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services.
(4) Transportation service providers to which subsection (3) applies shall meet the requirements of that subsection by January 1, 2013.
(5) Where a transportation service provider provides both conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services, the transportation service provider shall ensure that the same fare structure is applied to conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services.
(6) Where a transportation service provider provides both conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services, the transportation service provider shall ensure that the same fare payment options are available for all transportation services, but alternative options shall be made available to persons with disabilities who cannot because of their disability use a fare payment option.
(7) Conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers shall meet the requirements of subsections (5) and (6) by January 1, 2013.
(8) In this section,
“fare structure” means the fare price determined by fare media, such as cash, tickets, passes and bulk quantity discounts and by fare category, such as adults, seniors and students, but does not include promotional fares that a transportation service provider may employ from time to time.

Summary: Despite the fact that KT and KAS receive our funding from the City of Kingston we are considered separate transportation providers, thus there is no obligation for complete fare parity. We are compliant in that our fare matches the standard Kingston Transit fare. We have started initial discussions with the City regarding fare parity for items such as monthly passes and discounted pricing and the funding that would be required in order to make this happen.

I don’t blame the Access Bus for this one because, unless they get a major financial boost in funds to buy the fare collection equipment, there is no way they can align their bus fares with that of Kingston Transit without cutting back the number of buses they give to us as passengers.

After reading this, please let the government know if you agree or disagree that Kingston is failing in its fiduciary duty to provide equitable access to public transit for all its citizens. Thank you.

Please Read My Other Blogs:
Accessibility: http://www.wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Health: http://www.wheelchairdemon-health.blogspot.com

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