Thursday, December 11, 2008

GP's First Accessible Taxi Launched Today!

This afternoon I'll be at City Hall for a very special event as Grande Prairie's first wheelchair accessible taxi is launched. I've volunteered on the board of the Disabled Transportation Society for the last few years and serving there has really opened my eyes to the different ways you have to plan your life if you are in a chair. One of the goals we set out was to help our clients and members by exploring options for round the clock service.

Right now DTS can only afford to operate between certain hours. So that means if you wanted to go out to a late movie (or even a late Storm hockey game) you might not be able to get home because the DTS buses stopped operating at 10:30! Also because of the demand clients have to book trips DTS in advance. So, what happens if a visiting friend surprises you with a call asking you out for coffee? Sorry, if you haven't booked your ride with DTS 24 hours in advance we probably can't fit you in.

This new taxi should help solve those kind of things and really improve the quality of life for folks in wheelchairs. Yellow cabs will operate the taxi while it is still owned by DTS which I think is a good arrangement.

I've been working on this since council originally approved the grant a few years ago before I got on the board and I'm happy to see it finally all fall into place.

The city's news release is below:

"Partnership Paves Way For Wheelchair Accessible Taxi

The City of Grande Prairie and the Disabled Transportation Society (DTS) have partnered to provide the community with its first-ever wheelchair accessible taxi.

At a ceremony today, the new unit, a Chevrolet Uplander, operated by Yellow Cab in a lease arrangement, was unveiled at City Hall.

“We are proud to invest in this initiative to ensure a group of our citizens can participate more fully in the community,” says Mayor Dwight Logan. “I commend everyone involved for working hard to see this initiative through to fruition.”

The $50,000 taxi was purchased with the support of a $20,000 grant from the City of Grande Prairie and DTS contributing the $30,000 balance from their own funds.

“This initiative is an important step forward for accessibility,” says John Minue, present of the DTS. “Today’s launch has been more than three years in the making and we’ve overcome several challenges along the way. This is an exciting day.”

DTS and Grande Prairie Transit, the only providers of public wheelchair accessible transportation, have limited hours of operation, from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and have limited availability, notes Minue. “The wheelchair accessible taxi will be in service around the clock every day,” he says.

DTS’s door-to-door service requires 24-48 hours advance booking on a first-come, first-served basis. Difficulty in accessing bus stops in winter, restricted transit hours and fixed routes have also meant gaps in service, notes Minue.

The new unit will address a myriad of needs, says Minue. These range from early morning flights, late-evening social events, after-hours trips to and from the hospital, and as an option when the DTS is already booked.

Percy Sekora, Yellow Cab owner, has offered to donate 10 per cent of the profits from the unit to the Society. “I am thrilled to partner in this initiative,” he says. “I am pleased to help fill gaps in service for residents who deserve the opportunity to enjoy social activities or get to appointments readily like able-bodied citizens.”

The new taxi can transport those in wheelchairs and regular passengers. Those wishing to utilize the taxi can make arrangements through Yellow Cabs' regular dispatch at 780-539-3366."

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