Innovation committee seeks study on city-delivered Transit Plus for wheelchair users


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A City of Winnipeg committee has opened the door on potential public delivery of Transit Plus service for wheelchair users.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/03/2020 (993 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A City of Winnipeg committee has opened the door on potential public delivery of Transit Plus service for wheelchair users.

Council’s innovation committee voted unanimously Monday to call upon the public works committee to order an in-depth study of the idea. If approved, it would determine the cost and effects of switching to City of Winnipeg delivery for that portion of the accessible transit service.

Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), who chairs the innovation committee, noted a staff report found public delivery of Transit Plus rides for wheelchair users could have a “high” feasibility. Orlikow told reporters he believes it warrants further investigation.

“It is a vital service… this has a high probability of being successful. So, to me, if this can improve the service, keep costs generally the same… that’s what innovation (committee) loves to do,” he said.

The vote follows a call from Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) for Winnipeg to explore shifting 30 per cent of the currently 100 per cent contracted-out Transit Plus service back into civic staff hands.

The resulting report found wheelchair service may be best suited for such a transition, since it relies on similar vehicles and staff training, while accounting for about 30 per cent of all Transit Plus passengers and rides.

Mayes said he’s pleased the committee opted to take action on the report.

“If it’s the wheelchair component that comes back in-house, that sounds like it could be very workable,” he said.

The councillor has long-argued the City of Winnipeg should explore whether public delivery of some accessible transit contracts could improve the service by allowing public competition with the private sector. Mayes noted the price tag of the private contracts has grown in recent years.

“From our own stats, the cost per ride went up 53 per cent between 2009 and 2016… The cost has escalated pretty sharply, so I think both to improve service and to give us some options at controlling costs, we really need to look seriously at this,” said Mayes.

The city report cautions public delivery isn’t expected to produce savings; some councillors have expressed concern it would cost more.

However, a representative of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, which potentially could represent city-employed Transit Plus drivers, said he’s confident the public delivery option would prove feasible.

“I am really optimistic that we can actually work together on this to deliver a better service at a comparable cost,” said Zach Fleisher.

The city has logged thousands of complaints about Transit Plus service in each of the past few years, including 4,925 filed during the first 10 months of 2019.

An advocate for people with disabilities says the service’s riders report being subjected to vehicles that lack functioning heating and cooling systems, as well as frequently late pickups.

“People routinely get rides that are two hours different from what they requested,” said Patrick Stewart, a spokesperson for the Independent Living Resource Centre.

The public works committee is expected to consider the matter in April.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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