New taxi service eliminates HandyDart trip denials, but Victoria allows only 20 new accessible cabs

Despite the runaway success of Translink’s new $1 million program to supplement HandyDart service with cabs, which  has virtually eliminated trip denials for people with disabilities, Victoria’s Passenger Transportation Board has rejected a proposal to add 78 new wheelchair accessible taxis (WATs) to Vancouver’s fleet.

(A trip denial occurs when a customer is unable to secure a return trip or is denied any booking at all because of high demand.)

The PTB ruled earlier this month that the Vancouver Taxi Association should only be allowed 20 new WATs, far short of the number the VTA estimated could be supported by increased demand.

The VTA had proposed to deploy the new cabs with a central despatch system across all four Vancouver companies to maximize efficiency and cab availability. But the PTB rejected evidence that users of wheelchair accessible cabs wait longer that regular customers — sometimes twice as long — to get a cab.

As a result, only 20 new cars were approved. When not required for people with disabilities, those additional cabs would have supplemented the conventional fleet.

That appears to be the sticking point: the PTB has approved 38 suburban cabs to operate in the downtown Vancouver entertainment district on weekend evenings, a move opposed by the VTA and now caught in the city’s moratorium on new licences pending a review of the taxi industry, including the possible entry of Uber.

One way or the other, taxi capacity seems bound to rise. That’s what customers, especially people with disabilities, are demanding. The PTB will soon have to find a way to confront all of these emerging realities.