Spotting a taxi in Halifax is easy for most of us but finding an accessible one comes with its challenges.
Paul Vienneau relies on a wheelchair to get from place to place and often has to call around looking for a company that has an accessible cab available. It’s something he said that makes everyday life a little harder.
“All of the things that everybody else would take for granted like going to work, going on a date, planning your life. These are really difficult for someone with a disability who is unable to transfer into a car,” said Vienneau.
Vienneau said the lack of accessible service has recently led him to purchase his own vehicle so he can get around easier.
“The thing is, without a great number of accessible cabs in the system, a great number of people aren’t able to take part in a great number of things that people take for granted.”
Only 34 accessible cabs in Halifax
Tiffany Chase, spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), said while there is a cap of 1,000 regular taxis in HRM, there is no cap on the number of accessible cabs that can be on the roads.
However, there are only 34 currently operating in the municipality.
“The accessible taxi is dying in Halifax because most of the drivers are switching back to normal taxi,” said Sayed Hager, who has been operating an accessible taxi for the last two years.
Hagar said it costs thousands of dollars to modify a vehicle in order to make it accessible for customers and the larger vehicles also cost more to operate. He said because of that, he isn’t sure how long he can continue to offer accessible services.
“If it continues like this, one year from now, you’ll find no accessible taxi at all,” he told Global News.
Accessibility advocates want to see more done
Accessibility advocate Gerry Post would like to see all next taxi licenses be for accessible cabs. Post said other cities, like London, England for example, have 100 per cent accessible service. New York City has about 50 per cent accessible service, but in Halifax only three per cent of the taxis are considered accessible.
Three years ago, Post also recommended supplementing Halifax Transit’s Access-A-Bus service with more taxis.
“A lot of money is being spent on Access-A-Bus. Those trips, per trip costs HRM about $37. The same trip by taxi is about $17. So let’s outsource it to the taxi industry so we have more activity in that sector and that will bring more cabs onto the street that are accessible,” Post said.
Chase said staff with Halifax Transit are currently reviewing their accessible transit service and hope to have recommendations for council in the near future. One of the items included in the review is whether or not to supplement the existing service with taxis.
“I’m not sure what the delays are. It’s a massive change in the way they operate but with those sorts of savings as well as service improvements, I don’t understand why they aren’t acting on,” said Post. “We’ve talked about this and talked and a lot of talk but no action at HRM. So lets have some action.”