Town considering $2 taxi subsidy for seniors, students

By Penny Coles, Niagara Advance

Jean Maxim, a resident of the Davy Street seniors apartments, uses the current community shuttle service almost every day.

It costs her $4 to go to the bank, to shop on Queen Street or eat at the Stagecoach, where she meets her friends. Under the town's proposal, a one-way trip will cost her $12.

"I can't afford to do that. I don't know what I'll do. I just won't get out as often," she says.

"My friends will miss me, and I'll miss them."

After a rushed discussion late last Monday following an extensive budget debate, councillors endorsed a plan to help seniors and students with their transportation needs, but it won't be the community shuttle residents have enjoyed for the past two years.

At the public works committee meeting, councillors approved a chit system that would give seniors and students $2 off each taxi trip they take in town, for regular cab or para-transit rides. The program can be used with any cab licensed to operate in town.

The policy discussion was a result of an announcement by Niagara Classic Cabs that they would be discontinuing their community shuttle service at the end of March.

The town, corporate sponsors and community service organizations have been subsidizing the service, the town at a cost of $10,000 a year.

David Mole of Niagara Classic Cabs had hoped to expand the service with town support, including taking local residents to St. Catharines and Niagara Falls when necessary, but said he couldn't continue with the status quo, which was all the town would consider.

The report the public works committee has endorsed recommends the town provide coupons worth $2 to seniors and students. The town contribution will be capped at $10,000, or a total of 5,000 coupons. A book of 20 coupons could be purchased for $20. The cab driver can accept only one coupon each way, and will be reimbursed by the town.

Cabs licensed to operate in NOTL and the region start the metre at $3.50, plus 25 cents per 110 metres, and a waiting time of $24.50 per hour.

Mole says residents from St. Davids or Queenston will be looking at a cab fare of up to $50 round trip to a doctor's appointment in the Old Town, with just $2 off each way.

That's nothing like the scope of the sponsorship residents have come to rely on, he said.

He questions why councillors say transportation is a priority-and that's certainly the message he hears from those who have regularly used his family's service-but yet the town is willing to spend much more on items that seem less of a priority.

"I don't think it (the $10,000 cap) is indicative of how much of a priority this issue is."

He feels it would be more helpful to those who use the service for the town to at least set up zones, which could allow riders to use more than one coupon when travelling from St. Davids, Queenston or the rural Virgil area.

A registration form will be available from the town for riders and will require documentation, such as a senior's card, student card, or Niagara Specialized Transit ID.

Council will need to ratify the recommendation at next Monday's council meeting.

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