Transport woes

Deomecia du Preez, Scottsville

I have spastic diplegia and have made use of a wheelchair for eight years. I’ve been making use of Dial-a-Ride now for more then 10 years and have been struggling with transport.

For years I have not been able to attend my regular hospital appointments, or job interviews and missed several job opportunities due to lack of transport. I started to do my research and ask other disabled people if they also face the same challenges.

I found there were several similar complaints about the use of public transport. Many disabled have different conditions, and cannot make use of public transport which is not disabled-friendly.

I did research to find out how many make use of different transport – from buses to trains and taxis and found that many have a 30% success rate of getting from point A to B. They get mocked in public and don’t have the courage to endure that same situation the following day.

There are many days that these disabled recipients have to receive treatment at hospitals but because of the rules by Dial-a-Ride, of booking seven days in advance, we can’t get there. For being transported to hospitals or job interviews; monthly shopping; or in the case of an emergency, we cannot depend on Dial-a-ride.

I’m thus making a plea regarding our situation as a disabled person to ask for assistance with transportation.

* This letter has been edited

* Brett Herron, Mayco member for transport: responds:

The City of Cape Town has been providing the Dial-a-Ride (DAR) service to residents with special needs since 1999.

The DAR service is subsidised in part by the Western Cape Government and the City and has a limited budget which we spend as wisely and efficiently as possible, and in a way that allows us to provide a transport service to as many eligible users possible.

The City is committed to universal access and we try, within our means, to assist those residents who cannot make use of conventional public transport services. We are always striving to improve our service delivery, in particular for those with special needs and who do not have access to work opportunities.

The DAR service has a limited budget and therefore a limited capacity. Given these constraints, the DAR service is for the exclusive use of those who have been assessed by an occupational therapist as being unable to access conventional public transport services.

We also understand and acknowledge that some of the DAR users may need the assistance of a caregiver to accompany them on their trips. In these instances we do permit a caregiver to travel free of charge on the DAR service, but on condition that an occupational therapist has assessed the user and has confirmed that the assistance of a caregiver is necessary.

We currently have 21 buses for the transportation of Dial-a-Ride users. Each bus can accommodate five wheelchairs and three seated passengers.

Previously the fleet of the DAR service could only accommodate 70 wheelchairs at a time. Since December 1, 2015, with the introduction of the new vehicle operating company, the DAR fleet can accommodate 102 wheelchairs at a time.

To illustrate how the restructuring of the contract has improved access please see the following passenger numbers for the period December 2014 to April 2015 against those for the same period under the new contract and arrangements – i.e. December 2015 to April 2016: Passenger trips December 2014 – April 2015: 31 274

Passenger trips for December 2015 to April 2016: 32 941;

Where users are unhappy with any aspect of the service, we have a penalty system in place that provides for financial penalties to be imposed upon an operator should the vehicle operating company fail to provide the service at the high standards set by the City.

However, we can only invoke that penalty system if DAR users lodge formal complaints when they experience unacceptable service. We investigate all complaints and, if needed, we will address these with the new service provider.

I once again call on DAR users to please report complaints to the Transport Information Centre on 0800 65 64 63 – complainants will be issued with a reference number and will receive feedback once the complaint has been investigated.

Aside from regular users, other eligible users can use the DAR service on an ad hoc basis (once-off trip) for which a booking is required each time a person wishes to make a trip.

The booking system works on a first-come, first-served basis and can be made seven days in advance. Eligible people can use the following number for bookings: 0800 600 895.

The transport tariff varies according to the distance travelled, with a minimum rate of R6.70 a trip, depending on the distance travelled.

In addition, the MyCiTi bus service is designed to be universally accessible – this means the MyCiTi service is intended for the use of both able-bodied commuters and those with special needs.

Each MyCiTi bus is designed to provide a dedicated space for one or two wheelchairs (depending on the bus).

The buses are also designed for level boarding (i.e. no steps), and stations and stops are also designed for those who have little or no sight at all.