Loyalist Township partners with KATC for accessible transportation pilot program

Photo via Freepik.

An accessibility issue that Loyalist Township has been attempting to remedy since 2018 has now resulted in a partnership with the Kingston and Area Taxi Commission (KATC).

At their meeting on Tuesday, Jun. 12, 2023, Loyalist Township Council voted unanimously in favour of a recommendation that will see the Township enter into an agreement with the KATC to offer accessible taxi service to residents of Amherstview. The move comes after years of back and forth with Kingston Access Services (KAS), followed by some confusion around how a program employing taxis as opposed to access buses could be created.

Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Loyalist Township has the responsibility — and legal obligation — to provide accessible transportation for individuals who, because of the nature of their disability, cannot access the conventional transit system in Amherstview. Kingston Transit’s Route 10 currently serves the Amherstview area, allowing people in the community to connect to all of the routes offered by Kingston Transit.

“As a provider of conventional transportation to the Amherstview community, Loyalist Township is legally required to provide either a specialized transportation service to residents living within the Amherstview transit service area OR an ‘alternative method of accessible transportation.’ Accessible taxis are a form of alternative accessible transportation that satisfies legislative regulatory requirements,” a report to Council from the Community and Customer Services Department stated.

To fulfill this requirement, the Township began communications with KAS in November 2018, according to the report. Over a series of three attempts — over two full years — to have KAS provide the necessary service, that concept was dropped after the Township was told that KAS, “by way of a vote of its board of directors in [the] late [third quarter of 2020], formally declined to provide service.”

At that time, the Township had already begun discussions with the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) and the KATC about possible solutions. “As an outcome of those discussions,” the Township began talks with Amey’s Greenwood Taxi, a private taxi company in Kingston.

Over a year later, on November 18, 2021, Loyalist Council “approved staff recommendations to implement an [sic] subsidized accessible taxi transit service operated by Amey’s Taxi.” But the next month, Township staff were contacted by the KATC, who “informed staff that the provision of accessible taxi services for the City of Kingston and Loyalist Township was within their purview and oversight.”

According to the report, the KATC Executive requested that Loyalist Township staff cease any further action on the execution of the agreement with Amey’s Taxi. At the next meeting of Council, the Township was “advised by the KATC Executive” that “negotiating with a single taxi company was not permitted under the Taxi Licensing Commission By-Laws.”

“The new Executive advised that, through [Kingston and Area Taxi Commission] By-Law [No.2], the KATC is responsible for all licensing, regulation, and governance of the owners, drivers, and brokers of taxicabs [and that] therefore a separate agreement between Loyalist Township and Amey’s Taxi would be a contravention of the By-Law,” the report explained.

The recommendation Township Council had before them at their Tuesday, Jun. 12, 2023, meeting was a result of a new service agreement Township staff had developed between the KATC and Loyalist Township.

In total, the costs associated with implementing the new program for the rest of 2023 is $98,000. The report notes that there are 288 registered clients in need of such a service and that the “subsidized pilot program” will have an estimated $235,000 annual cost in the years to come. This approximation is “based on estimated 288 registered clients using the service for an annual average of 20.35 trips per year at an average cost of $40.06 per trip.”

“As the implementation of the program is not expected until August 2023, $98,000 is the estimated cost for the period,” the report explained.

“The Finance Division has indicated that the provincial gas tax reserve fund has sufficient funds to offer this [pilot] service for a 12-month period without adjusting the area rate.”

The true cost of the permanent program will be determined throughout the course of the pilot, according to the report, and “the increase to the area rate after the pilot could be $40 to $50 on a residential assessment of $300,000 in Amherstview. This would be a one-time increase as it is expected that the rate would then remain static as growth assessments will offset inflation.”

Councillor Paul Proderick was the first to speak on the item at the meeting, posing questions to Township staff about “process.”

“So we have 288 registered clients. Is that something that’s on the website? And… how is it communicated to people who may use this service?” he asked.

Staff indicated that they are estimating that the program could cover 288 clients, and that “we don’t have any registered right now.” The registration process would take place once the recommendation was approved, Council was told.

Proderick then asked if, following the term of the pilot, Amey’s Greenwood Taxi would continue to be the sole provider of the service. “Is there a possibility that the Kingston [Access Services] would come back into this process at some point, or is this sort of a long-term agreement?” he expanded.

Township staff responded that the agreement before Council is a one-year agreement that “could be renewed afterwards,” but that staff are still in talks with KAS to see if they could provide the service.

Finally, Proderick asked if the accessible taxi service would be available 24/7, which it would be, he was told.

Councillor Lorna Willis then took the floor, drawing attention to a section of the agreement discussing “payment performance and audit.” She said, “It doesn’t identify where we have the ability to audit to ensure that we’re being charged [for] services that were actually rendered. Is there a plan for that?”

Staff indicated that, yes, there is a plan for auditing the program, which is currently being ironed out by the Finance Department and the KATC.

With no further questions from councillors, Mayor Jim Hegadorn called for a vote on the proposed agreement, which passed unanimously. Loyalist Township plans to see the pilot program begin in August 2023.

The full report and recommendation to Loyalist Township Council on the accessible transit service agreement can be read on the Loyalist Township CivicWeb portal, which also hosts a recording of the full meeting.

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