Online booking coming to Para Transpo

Para Transpo users will soon be able to book trips online, something advocates have been calling for for years.

Coun. Allan Hubley, chair of the city's transit commission, and Coun. Jean Cloutier, the committee's vice-chair, announced the proposed service improvement Friday morning at Ottawa City Hall. The full proposal will be detailed in a report to the transit commission on Nov. 20.

They're proposing rolling out the service in two stages: initially, customers would be able to book a Para Transpo trip using an online web form, which would be available by the end of 2019.

The second stage of the project would see OC Transpo working with its software supplier to develop a full suite of online services that would, among other things, allow customers to book, confirm or cancel trips using a computer, laptop or mobile app on a smart phone. They'd also be able to track their ride as it's arriving.

That full suite of online services would be in place by the end of 2020.

'This is long overdue'

Para Transpo customers have long complained about long waits on the phone when they call to book a trip.

The online service is expected to reduce call volumes and therefore wait times for those who continue to call, according to a news release from the city. 

"This is long overdue, and the sad thing is is that people are having to book their rides and wait on hold for sometimes an hour, sometimes two hours because there's not enough people answering the phones in the OC Transpo call centre," said Trevor Haché, a board member with the Healthy Transportation Coalition, which advocates for transportation equity.

You can imagine if your daily experience means that you have to wait on hold for two hours every day to book a trip somewhere. - Trevor Haché, Health Transportation Coalition

Haché noted Toronto has had online booking for its accessible transit service since 2010. 

"You can imagine if your daily experience means that you have to wait on hold for two hours every day to book a trip somewhere. It's very inconvenient, and so it's a real injustice," he said.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson welcomed the news Friday.

''I am delighted that action is being taken by the Transit Commission and OC Transpo to provide online services for Para Transpo customers starting this year," Watson said in the news release. 

"Using online technology will give people a more convenient option for booking their trips, while freeing up capacity on the phone system for those who wish to continue using it," Hubley said in the release.