Shameful State of London’s Paratransit System Moves Councillors to Back Action Plan

Daryl Newcombe
CTV News London Reporter
Published Feb. 22, 2023

Accessibility advocates achieved a long-sought breakthrough in their fight to fix the London Transit Commission’s ailing paratransit service.

A delegation to the Civic Works Committee by Dr. Jeff Preston focused on the challenges faced by Londoners with disabilities who depend on the LTC’s specialized transit service as their primary mode of transportation.

“This is a big problem,” Preston told the council members. “[It’s] a dysfunctional system that has let too many people down.”

Londoners who rely on the service spend hours on the phone trying to book rides that often aren’t available.

It can lead to missed medical appointments and increased isolation for those living with a disability.

“We are far from fulfilling the obligations set out by things like the Human Rights Tribunal, but also more specifically the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act,” Preston warned.

“I knew we had some issues in paratransit, I frankly did not know how bad they were,” admitted Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis.

“I’m shocked by what I’ve been told by constituents about the poor service that we offer,” added Coun. Peter Cuddy.

The committee unanimously (4-0) supported an action plan and timeline proposed by Dr. Preston:

  • September 2023:
    Same day booking
    Smart card access
    Driver sensitivity training
  • January 2024:
    Online booking
    Live bus tracking
    Shorter travel times
  • Next four years:
    Increase annual ride capacity by 10 per cent
    The city funds 75 per cent of the cost of paratransit, but operational changes are the responsibility of the London Transit Commission.

“The primary issues that Mr. Preston discussed are all included on the commission’s work program for 2023,” explained the General Manager of London Transit, Kelly Paleczny.

The improvements will likely require a financial commitment in the upcoming four-year municipal budget.

Several councillors expressed a desire to see clear targets for improving paratransit included in their strategic plan that’s under development.

“I’m glad we’re getting this on the council table early in the council term,” said Coun. Sam Trosow.

“This is a system breakdown and we need our elected officials to commit to improvements to paratransit,” said Jacqueline Madden, who was happy to see progress after years pushing for improvements.

Accessibility advocates will make a similar presentation at an LTC meeting to push for action on the committee’s recommendation.

Council will make a final decision on the committee recommendation in March 7.

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