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Surrey-White Rock MLA hopeful funds will increase accessible taxis in B.C.

Province announces nearly $8M available in 2nd round of PTAP grants
The B.C. government has announced applications are now open for a second round of funds intended to enhance the accessibility to wheelchair-friendly taxi services. (Black Press Media file photo)

With a second round of funding now available to increase accessible taxis in the province, a Semiahmoo Peninsula politician is hopeful local cab companies – as well as their counterparts across B.C. – will take advantage of the opportunity.

Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford, who is also the province’s shadow minister for transportation and infrastructure, said he has heard from his constituents – and has experienced firsthand with a family member – how people who depend on wheelchair-accessible taxis often experience much longer wait times or even, lack of service.

While Halford thinks there will always be a need for more funding, he’s hoping the nearly $8 million in Passenger Transportation Accessibility Program grants will lead to improved taxi service for those who require wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs).

“I’m hoping (there will be) more availability, and that people are able to get where they need to go, when they need to go,” Halford said.

The provincial government announced the PTAP last year, to help make accessible taxis more available by offsetting the costs that taxi companies and owner-operators face in providing wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

“We have a community here with a lot of seniors and a lot of people with mobility issues,” Halford said of his constituency.

“We’ve seen a lot of examples of (people) having to wait hours, and companies not showing up and leaving people stranded.”

This year’s expanded program funding will build on last year’s grants, where 51 taxi companies proved eligible for $2.6 million, by providing further incentives for taxi companies and drivers to invest in accessible vehicles.

READ MORE: No-show wheelchair cabs ‘rob people of enjoying special moments’: South Surrey couple

As much as $7.8 million is available for this round of funding under the program, according to a release.

Funding will partially subsidize eligible applicants for costs related to vehicle maintenance, converting an existing vehicle, purchasing a converted vehicle, or purchasing a new vehicle and converting it. This year’s funding will also offer rebates to offset the higher costs of fuel and insurance that operators of accessible vehicles face.

For this year, the application period was extended from four to six weeks, and will close on March 3, 2024.

Funding for the PTAP is created by revenues collected from the per-trip fee that came into effect in September 2019 as part of the province’s efforts to introduce ride hailing and to modernize the taxi industry.

The per-trip fee was created to offset the regulatory costs and impacts of enabling ride-hailing operations and to help alleviate the impact that ride hailing has had on the availability of wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs) because, unlike ride-hailing companies, taxi companies are required to reserve a portion of their fleet for accessible vehicles.

Tricia Weel

About the Author: Tricia Weel

I’m a lifelong writer, and worked as a journalist in community newspapers for more than a decade, from White Rock to Parksville and Qualicum Beach, to Abbotsford and Surrey, from 2001-2012
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