Owen Sound police board to ponder taxi fare hike

By Denis Langlois, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Thursday, October 3, 2013 10:19:01 EDT AM

The chairman of Owen Sound’s police service board says there is still time for people to comment on a proposal to hike the cost of taxi fares in the city.

Gary Levine says the board has heard from taxi operators who are asking that the bylaw that regulates fares be changed so that all companies must charge a flat rate of $9 per trip, taxes included, within city limits.

The bylaw now allows taxi companies to charge a maximum of $8 per ride. Some operators charge $6.

Levine said the board has not yet received comments from the public, something he said he welcomes.

“The more people that provide feedback the better so that we’re not making the decision in isolation,” he said in an interview.

Without public comments, a motion to increase fares to $9 could be made at the next Owen Sound Police Service board meeting on Oct. 23, he said.

Francesca Dobbyn, executive director of the United Way of Bruce Grey, said she is concerned about increases in taxi fares, especially since the “most marginalized” people typically rely on them the most.

“For a lot of people, it’s just more of a burden on people who simply don’t have the money in their budgets to adjust to that burden,” she said.

The proposed increase also comes at a time when the city plans to increase bus fares by 10% in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and reduce routes from four to three, she said.

“Those issues should not be dealt with in isolation,” she said.

Rob Taylor, owner of Redline Taxi in Owen Sound, said he would like to see all cab operators charging the same price.

“We have to have a little bit of an increase to keep up with gas prices, insurance, maintenance, and to make sure that our drivers get a fair share as well,” he said.

Taxi fare prices are set by the Owen Sound Police Service board. The bylaw has set a maximum fare of $8 since at least 2002.

Levine said people wanting to provide feedback on the proposed fare increase should do so by Oct. 23.

They can do so by e-mailing Levine at glevine@docpc.com or the board’s administrative assistant Kelly Jo Calver at kcalver@owensoundpolice.com.

Make Affordable Transit an issue in Ontario’s Next Poverty Reduction Strategy

September 2013

Affordable transit is essential to the health of people living on a low income. It enables access to employment, education, health services, food, and recreation and other city or community services such as places to go to get relief from dangerously hot or cold weather. It also plays a key role in promoting inclusive communities.  In many areas across the province, the lack of affordable transit for people living on a low income is a significant problem – as identified through previous provincial government consultations on poverty reduction and social assistance:

“In community after community, lack of access to public transportation was a significant issue we heard about from people living in poverty; people simply could not afford to take the bus. That means that they are unable to apply for jobs or access resources that are there for them and their children. ”
-Breaking the Cycle: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, 2008

” We frequently heard about difficulties in accessing transportation. In urban areas, the concern is the affordability of public transit. In many small towns and rural communities, the concern is the lack of any kind of public transit. This is especially difficult for people with disabilities. ”
– Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario, 2012

Many communities are recognizing that cost is a barrier to transit use and are implementing a range of affordability strategies. For example, British Columbia and Saskatchewan make transit passes available at discounted prices for low income residents. In Ontario, transportation subsidies may be available to social assistance recipients for employment-related activities and medical therapy or treatment; however 

transportation costs for other important activities are not covered – such as for grocery shopping and support for children who need to be dropped off and picked up at day care or school, and/or older children who need to travel to school by transit.

Several cities and regions in Ontario are also implementing discount transit pass programs for low income residents and enabling community agencies to purchase tickets at a reduced rate from transit authorities to provide free of charge to community members accessing their services.

Being able to travel without restrictions to work, school, recreation and other places is important to creating healthy and inclusive communities. Making transit affordable and accessible for people living on a low income in communities where there is a public transit system is the best way to ensure that day-to-day activities are possible. Where there is no public transit system, local solutions must be identified and funded. 

When you attend a consultation meeting or send in your ideas, tell the government you would like to see the following included in Ontario’s next poverty reduction strategy:

1. Provide adequate and dependable funding to public transit across urban areas throughout the province, funding that allows transit to be affordable to all people who need it.

2. Implement a provincially funded discount transit pass program for people living on a low income in communities with a public transit system.

3. Convene an advisory group to examine best practices for increasing access to transportation for people living on a low income in communities without a public transit system.

4. Ensure that social assistance covers the regional cost of transportation in addition to other basic needs.

5. Ensure that the determination of minimum wage levels addresses the cost of transportation.

6. Ensure that any new funding for transit expansion target populations/places that are currently underserved and that a portion of these funds be used to improve transit affordability for people living on a low income.

7. Advocate for both provincial and national transit strategies.

Social Planning Toronto