Disability advocate concerned over accessibility of new P.E.I. bus routes

·2 min read
Anyone who needs an accessible bus is being advised to book 72 hours in advance. (Steve Bruce/CBC  - image credit)
Anyone who needs an accessible bus is being advised to book 72 hours in advance. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

Two new public transit routes launched Tuesday to take Prince Edward Islanders from Charlottetown to communities in eastern P.E.I. for just a toonie.

One new route is between Charlottetown, St. Peters and Souris. The other is from Charlottetown to Montague and Georgetown.

The system was set up and funded by the province.

But the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities says the new routes aren't fully accessible, because people with mobility issues are being asked to request it 72 hours, or three full days, in advance.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

"People use public transit because it's spontaneous, consistent, and available to them, and that they can use it when they want to use it," said Marcia Carroll, the council's executive director.

"People with disabilities were not taken into consideration for the planning of this project, and now they're being left behind."

It would be a challenge for anyone to say where, or what they'll be doing in 72 hours, Carroll said.

"What if you get a call to a specialist and need to be there in 24 hours? What if you have a job interview and need to be there in 48 hours? You can't do that with a transit system you need to book 72 hours ahead of time."

T3 Transit, the company operating the new routes, does have one accessible bus.

T3's owner Mike Cassidy says 72 hours is needed to make arrangements.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

"We have to know where the unit is that is accessible, and we have to plan ourselves as management and dispatch to get that unit on the route that has been requested," Cassidy said.

Purchasing another accessible bus for his fleet would be hard, Cassify said.

"Right now, if you want a new accessible bus, you could be waiting six months, eight months, to a year. You'd be hard pressed to find a used accessible bus in the marketplace. Equipment is very, very hard to obtain."

Provincial plan in the works

The province plans to buy several accessible electric buses to take people all over P.E.I.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

The government is treating the new routes as a pilot project before it makes a big purchase, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure James Aylward said.

"We need to better identify the demand and the needs, so when we move forward and place an order for an electric fleet, we have a better understanding of what the needs and the capacity are out there," he said.

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