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Council set to review transit fare plan for disabled

By Kevin Werner
METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP

A new transit fare plan adopted by Hamilton councillors in October was slated to be reviewed at their Dec. 12 council meeting.

Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla introduced a reconsideration motion requesting that reduced fares for people with personal mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, canes and walkers, and for Canadian National Institute of the Blind (CNIB) cardholders be continued.

Politicians approved the transit service’s fare policy for conventional transit and accessible service in October, forcing all people, regardless of physical condition, to pay the same rate to ride the Hamilton Street Railway system. CNIB cardholders have been receiving free transit. A monthly pass for a CNIB cardholder would  be $87 per month. An adult cash fare is $2.55.

Stephen Reavley, vice-president of the Hamilton chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind, urged politicians at a recent general issues committee meeting to reverse their decision.

City staff said Hamilton was required to establish the new policy because under the provincial government’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) they believed the city is prohibited from discounting fares to certain groups of people.

“This is the only rational solution we found to be compliant with the legislation,” said Don Hull, transit director. “

The fare policy is scheduled to start in January, 2013.

But Merulla said that he learned, after talking to provincial staff, the city can continue the program. He claims city staff was misinformed about how the AODA would impact the city’s fare policy.

Other municipalities, such as Toronto and Burlington, are keeping their fare programs in place, said the councillor.

Merulla doesn’t want to see people flooding the Disabled and Aged Regional Transportation System (DARTS), a scenario that could occur under the new fare policy.

He wants his colleagues to reverse their decision and is advocating that staff establish a series of checks and balances to ensure the program isn’t abused.

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