Transit’s True Accessibility

Slow and inaccessible to Canadians
Rahman Mohamed

According to the Statistics Canada 2011 National Household Survey more people are using public transit.  Not only is the car faster for commuting to work than public transit as reported by the Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and other Canadian media, it’s faster than public transit throughout the day, not just rush hour.

What many people don’t know is that Canadian public transit is not as accessible and consumer friendly as they believe to one of its primary users, those who can’t use the car: the disabled.

Cash fares for a single ride in a transit system on one of Canada’s 10 largest municipalities ranges from $2.50 to $5.50.

Winnipeg Transit raised its fares in 2013 but it still holds the spot of lowest fares.  Hamilton Street Railway isn’t far behind.

Both offer discounts to students and seniors, allow children under 5 to ride free (Hamilton children “are permitted to ride free of charge, provided they do not occupy seats to the exclusion of other passengers” and lets users get a discount by purchasing tickets instead of paying cash; but neither offers a discount to the disabled.

Winnipeg riders who require the use of a wheelchair or scooter, are unable to walk 175 metres outside, have 20/200 vision or less, or have Alzheimer’s Disease or Related Dementia qualify for an application to Winnipeg’s Handi-Transit; but they still have to pay full fare just like on Hamilton’s DARTS.

Calgary Transit’s adult fares rides are behind Winnipeg, but below the average. Like Winnipeg it offers discounts to youth and free service to children but Calgary extends its to age 6.  But its senior discount is only available in the form of a yearly pass to residents of Calgary that costs a dollar more than an adult monthly.

But Calgary not only has a door-to-door public transport service, it’s one of the few that allows attendants to ride free when accompanying a disabled passenger.

Vancouver’s Translink charges fares by the zone you’re in and the number of zones you cross; the closer you are to the City of Vancouver the lower your fare.  It is the city that offers the lowest purchasable monthly pass to post-secondary students, but it’s only in day passes that it doesn’t rank highest in cost when measured against Canada’s top 10 municipalities.  And to top it off it doesn’t offer discounts to disabled passengers.

OC Transpo, the transit system of Canada’s capital might have changed its fares on the country’s birthday, but if you use tickets instead of cash, you get close to a 12% discount, close to Toronto but far from Edmonton Transit System’s leading 25%.

Montreal sits close to the average and offers a variety of fares to public transit users.  A cash ride on Montreal’s STM costs just as much as a ride on Toronto’s TTC – $3.  Both offer discounts to children, students, and seniors.  Montreal’s free service extends to children under age 5.  They both offer free rides to those learning to walk but on the TTC only “Children under 24 months ride free”.

But unlike Toronto’s Wheel-Trans, Montreal’s Paratransit, both door-to-door services like Winnipeg’s Handi-Trans, and Access Calgary, Montreal’s offers a discount to its riders.  STM asks disabled riders with an ID to pay a discounted fare and lets them bring an accompanying person free.  Toronto’s Wheel-Trans and Edmonton’s DATS just let accompanying riders on free; no discount in sight.

Ottawa’s Para Transpo fares may vary throughout the day; if you’re travelling after 9am on a weekend or on a holiday, you’re on the system that offers the greatest discount on a door-to-door service; but if you’re travelling during the morning rush (between 6:30 – 8:59 am), you’re paying MORE than a regular rider; it’s only on the O-Train that registered Para Transpo riders ride free.

But the disability discount that leads the way in municipalities is for those with partial or complete vision loss.  Unfortunately it’s only available to those who with a CNIB ID and live in Edmonton, ride Mississauga’s MiWay, not riding Vancouver’s door-to-door HandyDart (one that doesn’t offer discounts), riding Brampton Transit or are on OC Transpo.

Other passengers who can’t drive and use public transport don’t receive a discount.

But for the most accessible transit system, MiWay speeds past the rest.  It might not offer a discount to disabled passengers on Trans-Help, a door-to-door service serving the Region of Peel for those who can’t use public transit, but it lets attendants with disabled passengers on Trans-Help AND attendants on regular MiWay transit routes ride free.  The only attendants who have to pay are those that ride with a CNIB rider on a regular transit route.  But that’s only because CNIB riders get a free ride.

Canadian transit still needs to drive if it wants to be accessible and consumer friendly to those who need it.

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