News / Ottawa

OC Transpo seating a 'first-come-first-serve' gamble: Accessibility committee member

First come, first served — that, and common sense should decide who gets priority seating on a crowded bus, says an accessibility advisory committee member.

Catherine Gardner, who uses a walker and a service dog to get around, said in instances where someone with a wheelchair cannot be accommodated on a bus, the driver should call in a bus that is on standby to provide assistance.

Bulger said four stops into the bus ride with Ethan in a stroller at the front the driver told him to get off to let a passenger who used a wheelchair board the bus. Bulger claims there was already enough room for the man to board with his wheelchair.

Gardner said she has been left behind in her wheelchair before when there have been too many strollers on board already.

"They got there first.,” said Gardner. “It’s a chance anybody takes when they take the bus.”

In a written statement to Metro, Tuesday, Troy Charter, manager of transit operations, said it is standard operating procedure to ask a passenger to leave a bus temporarily to allow a customer using a mobility device to access the mobility seating area.

“The customer would then re-board the bus,” wrote Charter. “This incident remains under investigation by OC Transpo. All findings will be incorporated into our ongoing review to ensure customer service is improved where necessary.”

Bulger said that operating procedure was not followed on Friday and he was forced to wait 20 minutes in -20 C weather with his kid brother.

“What (the driver) did is not what they stated,” said Bulger Tuesday. “He said, ‘Can you please get off the bus? We have a fair amount of passengers. Get off the bus and wait for the next one, but I’ll let this wheelchair on board.”

Somei Tam has a disability and uses a wheelchair. She said at times she has waited for another bus because the one that arrives is just too full.

“Well it’s full. What can I do, right? Basically, it’s full. It’s packed, she said.

However, there is cause for concern when people with disabilities are forced to wait outside for buses in the winter.

“It depends how cold it is. Some individuals have problems with circulation because of the disability. So there may be medical issues," she said.

Bulger said he wants an apology from OC Transpo, who, according to him, has not responded to his and his mother’s complaint from Friday.

A poll on Metro showed how divided some Ottawa residents were about who should be given priority seating on a crowded bus. By 5 p.m. Tuesday 84 votes were cast and 59 per cent who voted said priority should be given to passengers in wheelchairs.

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