Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kingston Continues Discriminatory Public Transportation Policies

Kingston has been held out as an example of how to accommodate people who are on a low-income and, in some cases, are disabled; especially in regards to their provision of a subsidy to help pay for public transit. I am therefore writing this Blog to show the truth of the matter.

As you will see below, the City has decided that people who use specialized transit, will still be left out of the picture.

We have very little choice but to use it because the conventional transit service is not accessible enough for people who use a wheelchair. Transit decided, about 1 1/2 years ago, to limit the bus stops that a person in a wheelchair can use because of safety concerns. Some of the new bus stops that they built were not accessible so, when the safety hazard was realized, wheelchair users were advised to limit their user of conventional transit.

Kingston still has no accessible taxis either so I was trying to address both these things with a meeting with the Mayor. I wrote him a letter outlining the problems in early January 2012, met with him and several other city staff members a few weeks later, and then finally got a written response to the discriminatory issues I was raising, today.

I want to clearly point out that, in 1992 Kingston got 4 accessible taxis. These were permanently taken off the road in 2004 because the taxi companies said they were too costly to run.

In 1998 Kingston started buying low-floor conventional transit buses. They didn't start to use them until Human Rights became involved and a settlement was reached in 2006. The limitations have, once again, been imposed on wheelchair users so, once again attempts such as this, are being used to regain our rights to fully take part in all that Kingston and indeed the province, has to offer.

Here is the reply I got from the Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Kingston today on the accessible transit availability and cost issue.

It is clear they have no intention to stop their discrimination against people who must rely on the Access bus to get around.

The Letter Received Today:

City of Kingston
216 Ontario Street
Kingston, Ontario
Canada K7L 2Z3

March 5, 2012

Dear Ms. [last name removed],

Thank you for attending the meeting convened by Mayor Gerretsen at City Hall on January 16 2012. The meeting gave the Mayor, myself and other members of city staff present the opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion with you on the pertinent legislative requirements being introduced through the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) and to update you on municipal transit programming, Kingston Transit's Affordable Transit Pass program and the accessible taxi considerations by the Taxi Commission.

As part of the discussion, I indicated that I would provide you with a response on the matter of the Kingston Access Services (KAS) and Kingston Transit's Affordable Transit Pass Program. As was described in letters you have received from Sheila Kidd, Director of Transportation Services dated June 14, 2010 and August 9, 2010, the services of KAS are offered by a separate non-profit corporation that is not under the direction of the city and, as such, distinct from the services offered through the general municipal transit system. The service programs and corresponding rates for provision of services are determined by KAS and its board of directors. We appreciate that the nature of the services offered by KAS are different from conventional transit and geared as door-to-door services on a call basis.

The city continues to strive to introduce the requirements of AODA. We recognize that in 2011 AODA legislation was passed without the fare parity provision. We also respect the role of the various organizations and boards that provide services to our residents and offer our support when requested. I have taken the liberty of copying Trevor Fray, Executive Director, KAS, on this letter to keep him informed on this important topic.

Sincerely,

Gerard T. Hunt
Chief Administrative Officer

GH/jr

cc: Mayor Mark Gerretsen, City of Kingston
Denis Leger, Commissioner, Transportation, Properties & Emergency Services, City of Kingston
Julie Salter-Keane, Accessibility Compliance Project Manager, City of Kingston
Elizabeth Moore, Chair, Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee
Sheila Kidd, Director, Transportation Services, City of Kingston
Trevor Fray, Executive Director, Kingston Access Services
Alan McLeod, Senior Legal Counsel, City of Kingston


The issue, as it was presented to the Mayor and the City Staff named above:

January 1, 2012

Dear Mayor Gerretsen,

It was good to meet with you today at the New Years Day Levee. As a follow-up to our brief discussion today, I am sending you some information about the transportation problems I described to you.

I’ll include in this summary quotes from various directives, policies, and sources in Kingston that will clearly indicate that the city, in theory, does NOT have control over the provision of accessible public transportation to its citizens with a mobility disability, at all.

The hope is, by sharing this information, that Kingston could fix this glaring discriminatory gap. Below are some links and some quotes that will better illustrate the extent of the problem.

Kingston Access Bus

The quote below is from Hal Linscott to the city councillors around budget time 2011.
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 Link: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/pdf/council/agenda/2011/COW_A0111-11068.pdf.

Note on page 2 where it says the city holds no contract with the Access Bus and they're not legally obligated to give them money.
Operating Budget for the City in 2011: In the city's budget, funding to the Access Bus is posted as an administrative cost. Why?

Source Link: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/pdf/budget/2011_OperatingBudget.pdf.

Note how they post expenditures for transit vs the Access Bus. Transit is on page 4 & 15. The Access Bus is on page 19. (It's hard to spot in this document).

Fare Parity and the Municipal Transportation Subsidy for Low-Income Kingstonians:
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)

Link: http://wheelchairdemon-transit.blogspot.com/2011/04/bus-fare-increase-in-kingston.html . This takes you to bus fare cost comparisons. The link to the bus fares on Kingston Transit is: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/residents/transportation/transit/passes.asp

This subsidy cannot be used on the Access Bus. This means the policy, created by the City of Kingston, is discriminatory.

Proof that Kingston Access Bus will not be creating fare parity with Kingston Transit 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 from the city, they can't afford to align their bus fares with that of Kingston Transit.

To illustrate, if one were to take an average of 2 Access Buses a day for a year, the annual cost of bus fare for one passenger would be $1,825 [($2.50 x 2)x 365]. If they were able to buy 12 full-priced adult bus passes at a cost equivalent to Kingston Transit, they would get unlimited rides and pay $780.00. If they were able to buy the equivalent subsidized bus fare, the fare would be $558.00 per year.

This difference shows that, for one person to stop paying the full $2.50 for each and every trip that the take, the Access Bus would lose $1,045 ($1,825 – $780) revenue per passenger, annually for an equivalent full-priced bus pass, and $1,267.00 ($1,825 - $558.00) for a subsidized fare.

Obviously, without more financial support from the city, the Access Bus can’t afford to equalize our fare. That being said, it would be discriminatory for the City to leave things as they are. At the last meeting, where the Accessibility Report was presented to the citizens of Kingston, it was announced that this, in fact was the intent; that the cost discrepancy would not be addressed.

Current law exists that requires that this be done. For example, there’s the Ontario Human Rights Code (see: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h19_e.htm#BK1), the Municipal Act (see: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_01m25_e.htm#BK170) and the Planning Act (see: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90p13_e.htm#BK3). The AODA has just been released, and it contains provisions that will soon add more strength to these obligations.

Accessible Taxis

From MAAC Agenda (about accessible 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 Link: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/pdf/cityhall/committees/accessibility/agendas/2011/MAA_0711-SchedC.pdf

Note how the taxi project has been put aside until further notice.

Another one about bringing back accessible taxi’s to Kingston

Report of October 19 Taxi Commission Meeting

Commissioners present were Ken Matthews, (Chair), Rod Macdonald (Vice-Chair), Charlie Lapointe, Martin Prachowny, Sandy Berg and John Pyke. Ric Bresee was absent again.

To assist them were Dana Kennedy, Clerk, and Dave Kennedy, Taxi Inspector. Julie Salter-Keane of the City of Kingston was present to speak about accessible taxis.

From the Industry were Kevin Murphy, Doug Cox, Mark Greenwood, Kirstie Attisha and Roy Ambury.

Steve Buckingham was present for a hearing about the plate held by his late father Gary.

Accessible Taxis

Julie Salter-Keane spoke to the Commission on behalf of the City of Kingston about Accessible Taxis. Her points included:
  • The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed by the Parliament of Ontario in June 2011. Although the Taxi Industry here is regulated by a Commission rather than a municipality as specified in the Act, the Act still applies to the Commission.
  • The Accessibility Committee has decided that the best way is for each of the Brokers to be issued a special licence for one accessible taxi vehicle each.
  • The Act prohibits charging higher fares for disabled passengers and charging for the handling of mobility devices. It also requires that by January 2012 all taxis have vehicle ID numbers on the rear bumper, as well as inside the vehicle in such a way as to make it easy for a person with low vision to process the information (in large print & possibly Braille).
  • The Act mandates that there be Accessible taxis in every municipality.
  • The Accessibility Committee will probably ask the City to recommend to the Commission that the three Accessible taxis be licensed by the summer of 2012. These vehicles would have to meet certain specs, and the licensees would have access to interest-free loans of $20,000 from the City.
  • [To Mr. Matthews' comments about KAS having idle buses and taking $1.8 million from the City]: The Act mandates accessible taxis, so this has no effect on Kingston Access Services, who operate the Access Buses. KAS must provide the same hours of service as Kingston Transit, and the Accessibility Committee recommends that KAS use taxis to cover the hours that their services fall short of those of KT.
  • The Committee would recommend going to rest homes and other places where persons with disabilities might reside to find a greater revenue stream.
  • [To Mr. Macdonald',v comment that an interest-firee loan is no incentive, that there are costs involved in complying with the Act, and that having all three Accessible taxis at the same broker would make more sense]: The Province is willing to help in training taxi drivers, but has no provision for financial assistance to operators of accessible taxis from the Province. No municipality does either.
  • [To Mr. Macdonald's comment about the requirement for 24-hour service]: If one accessible taxi Plateholder were unable to provide the requested service in a reasonable time, he could pass the service request oil to another Plateholder. Any Plateholder whose vehicle was broken down would have 14 days to have it repaired.
  • [To Mr. Lapointe.v question about the number of potential customers]: The Act is based on a perceived need, but there are no hard numbers to indicate what level of demand there will be.
  • To Mr. Cox's statement that Accessible taxis lose money on every call]: Accessible taxis can be used as regular taxis when not transporting disable persons.
  • Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Pyke suggested that costs be borne by the taxpayers of the City rather than the other taxi passengers paying higher fares.
  • Mr. Greenwood said an Accessible taxi would only last two or three years.
  • Mr. Matthews questioned the application of different criteria to taxis and KAS.
  • Ms. Berg recommended that the Accessibility Committee contact the City of Halifax.
  • Mr. Pyke said the City was demanding that the process not cost the City anything.
  • Mr. Cox says his company already does work for KAS. He stated that these calls take longer to service, and that three vehicles would be —insufficient for the demand. He added that drivers of Accessible vehicles would have to be paid hourly rather than oil commission and that the $70,000 Accessible vehicles were not practical for ordinary taxi passengers.
  • Mr. Greenwood projected a $20,000 loss per year per vehicle, and said the City pay this out of the KAS funds rather than having taxi passengers as a whole pay extra when the City should spread it over the entire tax base.
  • Mr. Cox said the City of Burlington had issued Accessible plates worth $100,000 to get Plate-holders to add Accessible taxis.
  • Ms. Salter-Keane said Ottawa had removed plate value from Accessible plates.
  • Mr. Macdonald said the Province was wrong to mandate that anyone open a business that was likely to be a money loser.
  • Mr. Pyke said it was a done deal, and it is up to us to figure out how to comply.
Why is it so hard to enforce the need for the taxi companies to provide accessible service? How can we get around the obvious mindset that says that they won’t accommodate until someone else pays?

This mindset would not happen in, for example, a food establishment where health unit, and other, laws would require them to buy some costly equipment so they could comply with the food safety laws.

To add accessible taxis is no different. It is the law (see above), so it should be considered the cost of doing business and made mandatory by the City of Kingston.

In summary, with Kingston offering no fare parity for transit, no accessible taxis, and only a partially accessible conventional transit service, the City of Kingston has no control over the provision of accessible public transit. It therefore is committing some serious Human Rights Violations, and indeed creating new ones when it creates municipal transportation subsidies that can’t be applied to the disabled, one of the protected segments of the population.

After reading this, please contact me and arrange a date that we can meet to discuss this further and hopefully come up with a remedy to this situation as quickly as possible.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration into this matter.

Sincerely,

[name removed]

The cost comparisons between conventional and specialized transit:

Access Bus - Actual Costs: 2011


Month
Completed
Trips
Cash Fare Price
Total $$$
January
94
$2.25
$ 211.50
February
87
$2.25
$195.75
March
75
$2.25
$168.75
April
82
$2.25
$184.50
May
84
$2.25
$189.00
June
49
$2.25
$110.25
July
53
$2.50
$132.50
August
60
$2.50
$150.00
September
66
$2.50
$165.00
October
65
$2.50
$162.50
November
84
$2.50
$210.00
December
72
$2.50
$180.00
Total
871
$2,059.75


Kingston Transit Costs

Adult Bus Cost
Subsidized Pass
$65.00
$44.00
$65.00
$44.00
$65.00
$44.00
$65.00
$44.00
$65.00
$44.00
$65.00
$44.00
$68.25
$46.50
$68.25
$46.50
$68.25
$46.50
$68.25
$46.50
$68.25
$46.50
$68.25
$46.50
$799.50
$543.00


$2,059.75 vs $799.00 = 61.18% more than those with a full-priced bus pass
$2,059.75 vs 543.00 = 73.64% more than those with a subsidized bus pass

29.34% of total income (living allowance) from ODSP is spent on transit.

Note: CNIB card holders pay $0.10 per trip if they're an adult and $0.05 if they're a child or a senior.

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

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