From the Kingston Whig-Standard Online
Taxi fares in Kingston could increase slightly in order to provide new wheelchair-accessible cabs for the handicapped under a draft report issued by the city this week.
The consultant's report suggests raising the "drop rate" - the fee charged to people getting into a cab - by five cents per trip to $2.85.
The money would be used to offset the costs of putting three vans equipped with wheelchair lifts and other specialized equipment on the road to serve the handicapped.
The vehicles would be operated by the city's private taxi firms and would supplement the Kingston Access Services bus, which is not available 24 hours a day and does not have the capacity to serve everyone who wants to use it.
The access service already uses taxis to supplement its coverage for people who are handicapped but still able to use ordinary cabs. A number of city buses also offer wheelchair access, but those also do not operate 24 hours a day and do not provide door-to-door service.
"We looked at a lot of different options, but we wanted to choose one that would not put the cost of these accessible taxis onto the tax base," said city commissioner Cynthia Beach, whose department commissioned the report.
The report notes that the city does not have dedicated handicapped taxis because they are a money-loser for companies under the current billing regime.
Outfitting them with lifts and other equipment costs $30,000 or more, they are more expensive to insure and use more fuel, adding $1,200 a month to the cost of putting them on the road.
Drivers don't like them because they run many fewer trips in a shift and take longer to load and unload passengers, resulting in fewer trips and lower earnings and tips for the drivers.
The report suggests by adding a nickel to each taxi fare in the city, the resulting revenue could be used to offset the costs of buying and running the specialized taxis, supplement the wages of the drivers who operate them and make accessible cabs economically viable.
"This approach offers the advantage of spreading the cost over a large customer base with limited [or] no impact on customers," the report concludes about the five-cent rate hike.
"It fully offsets the additional capital and operating costs of accessible on-demand taxi service which improves the economic viability and the sustainability of the service."
The consultants suggest issuing three accessible plates, one to each of the largest firms in the city, which would be enough to provide 24-hour service, seven days a week.
People can have their say on the proposal and read the draft report by following the links on the city's website.
The report will also be the subject of two public meetings next Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the downtown branch of the library between 2 p. m. to 4 p. m. and 7 p. m. to 9 p. m.
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