The City of Winnipeg has launched a service that will allow wheelchair users to book rides with accessible vehicles through several taxi and personal transportation providers.
The new service, a two-year pilot called Winnipeg WAV (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle), was announced on Wednesday.
As with other ride booking services, users will be able to set their pick-up and drop-off locations and arrange a ride from the nearest available vehicle, the city said in a press release.
They will be able to access the service through a mobile app, the city’s website or by calling 204-986-4WAV (204-986-4928).
This is something the Independent Living Resource Center has wanted to see for years, to make it easier for people with disabilities to get around.
The existing Transit Plus service isn’t ideal because it requires pre-booking, says Patrick Stewart, a consultant at the center.
With Transit Plus, the city’s transit service for people with disabilities, “you’re going to have to book ahead, you have to call a day or two before they give you some sort of approximate time when the vehicle is going to be there,” he said.
“There are a lot of things you can’t control because it’s public transit, aren’t there?”
Meanwhile, people with mobility issues also often face long wait times for taxis or transportation services that can meet their needs, Stewart said.
“The experience of many other people with disabilities is to wait one to three hours for a ride, or to be told they have to pre-book a ride 24 hours in advance. This was a practice in town during some time,” he said.
“You can imagine the frustration of trying to be a customer and use a publicly available service, and you’re just not able to get it.”
Stewart says he thinks the city’s new app is a step in the right direction to make transportation services for people with disabilities more accessible.
The City is also offering drivers and owners of accessible vehicles incentives to participate in the pilot project.
Drivers will be eligible for up to $2,250 per year and owners up to $2,500 per year. Drivers who own their vehicles can access both financial incentives, the city’s press release says.
The $1.8 million pilot project is funded through the city’s rental vehicle accessibility surcharge. It could be extended depending on his performance, according to the city.