BC government sets aside $3 million for wheelchair-accessible taxis

Feb 1 2023, 8:36 pm

The provincial government announced today it has set aside $3 million in funding to support a rebate program for encouraging private taxi companies to roll out more wheelchair-accessible taxi vehicles.

This program will be available to eligible taxi owner-operators across British Columbia, with the funding intended to help cover the higher costs associated with maintaining wheelchair-accessible taxis compared to conventional taxi vehicles.

Riders who depend on wheelchair-accessible taxis often experience longer wait times or a lack of service, and this funding program is intended to improve such services for seniors and individuals with mobility disabilities.

“Promoting equity in passenger transportation is an important way that we’re working to build a better, stronger future for all British Columbians,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, in a statement. “By investing in a more inclusive transportation network we’re helping people participate more fully in their communities by connecting with friends, attending appointments and getting to work.”

The province has also indicated that it will launch three additional funding programs over the next three years to reduce the cost of operating, acquiring, and converting wheelchair-accessible taxis, and providing training to better support the passengers who rely on them.

Such vehicles carry a higher operating cost, with greater fuel consumption and higher upfront costs, given their larger size and specialized equipment for accommodating wheelchairs.

“With the removal of some financial barriers, this is a great opportunity for the industry here in Vancouver to get more people where they need to go. I look forward to supporting our members and working with the Province as PTAP gets going,” said Carolyn Bauer, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Taxi Association.

Some jurisdictions in BC require taxi companies to set aside a minimum proportion of their fleet for wheelchair-accessible vehicles. However, there are no such stipulations for ride-hailing companies.

According to the Passenger Transportation Board’s latest fleet statistics, as of August 2022, there are 4,145 taxi vehicles across the entirety of BC, with 15% or 625 vehicles being wheelchair-accessible taxis.

Within Metro Vancouver, there are 2,635 taxi vehicles, and 18% or 473 vehicles are wheelchair accessible.

The four taxi companies that operate within the City of Vancouver have a combined total number of 1,073 taxi vehicles, with wheelchair-accessible vehicles accounting for 17% or 184 vehicles.

This includes 47 wheelchair-accessible vehicles for the Vancouver Taxi fleet (40%), 21 for Maclure’s Cabs (14%), 64 for Yellow Cab (15%), and 54 for Black Top Cabs (15%).

The provincial government’s new rebate program for wheelchair-accessible taxis is funded from the per-trip fee it collects from ride-hailing. This per-trip fee on ride-hailing vehicles increased from $0.30 to $0.90 at the start of 2023.

Over the coming years, TransLink is looking to expand its HandyDART service to meet the growing demand for the bookable, door-to-door shuttle bus service. It is specifically designed for seniors and people with disabilities who cannot easily use the conventional public transit system.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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