'London Transit broken'

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Accessibility sticker on an LTC bus

Jon Purdy

While thousands of students pile onto crowded buses every morning, many students with physical disabilities are left out in the cold.

Two media and the public interest students, Nicole Catenazzi and Jill Ritchot, want to change the status quo with a petition requesting more wheelchair accessible transit on campus.

The petition reads: “By signing the petition you ask that all regularly scheduled London Transit Commission buses that stop on campus be designated wheelchair accessible.”

The request, addressed to the LTC, includes the 13 Wellington, 2 Dundas and 10 Wonderland routes, which are not labeled accessible. Catenazzi and Ritchot have collected 250 signatures so far, though they aim to obtain 5,000.

For students, faculty and staff with physical disabilities, using London’s current transit system is problematic.

“Transit in London is broken,” Jeff Preston, a graduate student of media studies who uses an electric wheelchair, said. “It just doesn’t work.”

Preston shared his experiences using the London Transit system.

“The busiest routes in the city are the least accessible,” he said. “I have no way of getting to major malls or grocery stores using public transit.”

John Ford, director of transportation and planning at the LTC, said major routes require more buses, and are thus harder to make fully accessible.

Under LTC’s current policy, low-floor accessible buses will only be added to replace old buses.

“We should be fully accessible in 10 years,” Ford said.

Paratransit, a specialized door-to-door service offered by the LTC to help with accessibility in London, comes with its own set of inconveniences.

“I have to book three days in advance, and cancellations must be made 24 hours beforehand,” Preston said.

Catenazzi noted the Paratransit system is known for being late, or not showing up at all. “It’s simply not consistent with a student’s busy schedule,” she said.

Paratransit could not be reached for comment.

“Average individuals would never allow companies to dictate when and where they are able to go ... and yet it’s OK for people with disabilities,” Preston said, adding the disabled population is marginalized from the community as a result.

Catenazzi said opponents of the motion point to lengthy boarding procedures, or the considerable financial costs.

Both Catenazzi and Ritchot agreed these were indefensible complaints.

“Inaccessibility is just another form of discrimination,” Ritchot said.

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