Friday, January 21, 2011

What's fair and reasonable?

I'm feeling a little torn and twisted over an article today in the SP (Jan. 21/11 A7) regarding the person challenging the fares for physically handicapped people using wheelchair-accessible taxis.

I support the cause that all streets and public amenities should provide accessibility to citizens with mobility issues. It includes curb cuts,, entrances, elevators, washrooms, and anything else that would ensure that mobility challenged citizens enjoy the same use and benefit that able-bodied citizens enjoy. I support the city subsidies to Access Transit.

Many wheelchair users can avail themselves of regular taxis. They can lift themselves from their chair into the cab and the chair collapses and lifts into the trunk. To me this service is no different that picking up passengers at the airport and loading luggage into the trunk.

In this case the man is challenging the cab company's charge for use of a specially equipped vehicle. The company says its cost to equip the wheelchair taxi is $15,000.00 to $20,000.00. The taxi driver requires extra time to load and unload the passenger and secure the chair. It is definitely more expensive and time consuming than a regular fare.

Since the city regulates cab fares it is drawn into the fray as to whether or not this higher fare is discriminatory and/or whether or not the city should subsidize this fare. If the city should provide subsidies, what criteria, if any, should be placed on the usage? Is Access Transit a sufficient offering of public transportation to those in need? Should a spur of the moment trip to the mall warrant the same subsidy as a trip to the doctor or some other necessary appointment that cannot be accommodated by Access Transit?

If the cab companies are mandated to provide this service and left to bear the brunt of the additional cost I suspect they will meet the bare maximum for service and those wanting the service and who are willing to pay for the service will have their options limited.

My head and heart are battling this one. What's fair? I have personal experience with both Access Transit and private wheelchair carriers. And I'm still undecided on this issue.

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