By: Stephen Wentzell
July 24, 2021
An accessible taxi-style service could soon be making its way to the Halifax Regional Municipality.
A new survey, launched Thursday, is looking for public feedback on a potential program anticipated to begin operations by the end of 2021. The municipality says survey responses will help inform the framework for how the service will operate.
The private, on-demand program would require the municipality to pay a fee to the contracted company to provide an accessible taxi-style service, while users will pay the standard rate for cab rides.
For disability rights activist, Vicky Levack, the program would make a major difference in her life.
Levack, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, currently relies on the Access-a-Bus service provided by Halifax Transit, where she has to request transportation at least seven days in advance.
“One of the main barriers to living and working in their communities is that it takes quite a bit of effort to get somewhere,” Levack said. “I can’t just go and do stuff. My life has to be planned to the minute.
“Instead of working around my schedule, I have to work around the bus.”
The program will be required to meet specific standards, according to HRM, and it is looking for input on standards, including how many vehicles should be available, how customers should be able to book trips and what a reasonable response time might be.
The program would allow people who require accessible transportation a greater sense of spontaneity and availability to visit friends or go to events.
Levack calls it a “miracle” to find a wheelchair-friendly taxi in Halifax.
She says there are only four accessible cabs in the city, and they’re only available when the drivers who own them are on shift. Often, no cabs equipped for wheelchairs are operating and Levack says she’s either confined to her home or stuck somewhere without a way home.
“There’s been times where I’ve had something I need to do and the bus couldn’t get me, so I called a cab,” Levack said, only to be told none are available. “It’s very wrong and it makes me frustrated because if I was an able-bodied person, I could just get into a cab.”
When she was younger, she would have to leave the bar by midnight, “like Cinderella,” to catch the bus out of fear of being stranded downtown. There have also been times the Access-a-Bus service has forgotten to pick her up, despite booking in advance.
Halifax Regional Council approved a contract for accessible taxis in late-February. The municipality cited the high cost of providing the service for unsuccessful past efforts.
The online survey is open until Aug. 13 and can be accessed at https://www.shapeyourcityhalifax.ca/accessible-taxi-style-service?utm_source=halifaxtoday.ca&utm_campaign=halifaxtoday.ca&utm_medium=referral.