Transit Cuts to Impact the Disabled

Updated January 20, 2011

Brian Christoph can barely walk some days because of his disabilities, but he looks forward to going to Peterborough Petes games thanks to the city’s Handi- Van service.

If city council goes ahead with its planned cuts to the public transit service to help drive down the property tax increase to 1.335%, he said he won’t
be able to get to the Memorial Centre from his Stewart St. home for Petes games on Saturdays.

Christoph added that some people who rely on the Handi- Van service wouldn’t be able to go out for dinner, visit friends or do other activities on Saturday
and Sunday nights if council reduces the hours of service for public transit on the weekends.

“It affects me in a profound way. It would isolate me…. It would almost make me a shut-in on the weekends,” he said Tuesday. “It just creates more loneliness and isolation for persons like myself.”

Council endorsed cutting $422,000 from the city’s $9.8-million budget for public transit, during the budget committee meeting last week.

Bus service would stop at 6:40 p.m. rather than 11:20 p.m. on Saturdays and run from 8:40 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. to 7:20 p.m. on Sundays. The Handi-Van service would also end at the new times on the weekend.

The Major Bennett route on Sunday would be eliminated and the Technology Dr. service would be reduced to four trips each weekday from the current service level of six trips.

People will be able to provide feedback to council on the draft 2011 budget at a public meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers at
City Hall, 500 George St. N.

The draft budget goes to council for approval Jan. 31.

Mayor Daryl Bennett has said that the feedback he has got on the proposed transit cuts has been six to one in favour of the changes.

“Most people are very content with the decision,” he said Monday. “We are looking to review our transportation needs in the city of Peterborough and it’s
important for us to do the right thing on behalf of the major population.”

Christoph said he has a back disability and several other conditions that will eventually force him to use a wheelchair.

He said he normally uses the Handi-Van service about four times a month to get to doctors’ appointments and appointments with therapists. On Tuesday, he used the service three times to get to various appointments.

Christoph said he called all 11 council members about the issue and as of Tuesday afternoon councillors Andrew Beamer, Dean Pappas, Bob Hall and Dan McWilliams had returned his calls.

“I’m really impressed with Andrew Beamer,” Christoph said.

The Handi-Van service helps some people get to church and dialysis appointments on weekends, said Elaine Hewitt, who added she has used the service almost daily since the city started offering it in the mid-1970s.

“The wheelchair taxi is a metered fare, so it’s way more expensive,” she said. “They start the meter as soon as they pull up and then they don’t turn the
meter off until they get you where you’re going and unload you.”

Hewitt said she had to use a wheelchair-accessible taxi on Boxing Day when the Handi-Van service wasn’t operating. She said it cost her almost $16 to get to her home on Crystal Dr. from a friend’s home on Rubidge St.

Hewitt suggested the mayor has something to gain from cutting transit service because he co-owns the Liftlock Group of companies, which includes Capitol Taxi, with his two sons and his brother-in-law.

“He thinks he’s going to get all kinds of business through his wheelchair taxi service,” she said.

Bennett rejected the suggestion that he has a conflict of interest.

“I would reject that suggestion,” he said Monday.
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