Photo: Beck Taxi Facebook
Eligible Accessible Taxi drivers in Toronto have begun receiving cheques in payment from the Accessibility Fund Program.
Taxi News contacted Toronto’s media office as well as its Freedom of Information office on October 11th to confirm complaints from a group of 30 Accessible drivers who were still waiting for payment of their 2020 funds. Beck driver Mohsen Holway had alerted the news site to the fact that hundreds of drivers who delivered Accessible service were waiting and wondering when their payments would arrive.
According to an email response from media spokesperson Deborah Blackstone, on October 8, 2021, program funds were distributed to 244 accessible taxicab owners and 258 taxicab drivers who provided accessible service in 2020. The total amount of program funds that was distributed was $1,440,995.43, resulting in an average per-driver payment of approximately $2870.00.
“Licensed accessible taxicab owners and drivers who provided accessible services in 2020 had to apply by April 30, 2021 to receive the program funds collected from last year. Taxicab owners and drivers who were eligible for the funds completed a declaration, met the eligibility criteria and maintained service standards,” Blackstone wrote.
Eligibility criteria include possession of appropriate licence, accessible vehicle and valid accessible training.
Drivers and owners under contract with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Wheel-Trans program are not be eligible for program funds, Blackstone notes in her email.
Mohsen Holway was encouraged to receive the news that cheques were being distributed, and although he himself has not yet received a payment, some of his driver friends had posted photos of the paper cheques as proof that the cheques really are in the mail: “I will wait a couple days before contacting L&S to ask where it is,” he said.
The Accessibility Fund Program has been created to support the availability of accessible taxi service and to offset the higher cost of providing wheelchair accessible service. The program is funded by a regulatory charge on members of the vehicle-for-hire industry, which includes taxicabs, limousines and private transportation companies (such as Uber/Lyft). Toronto Taxicab Licensees (TTLs) and standard taxicab owners who have an accessible vehicle are exempt from these fees
To help the taxicab and limousine industry, during the 2021 budget process, Toronto City Council approved reducing the Accessibility Fund Program fee by 75 per cent for 2021. The 2021 accessibility fund fee is $31.33 for every standard taxicab owner application and renewal and $15.67 for every vehicle-for-hire driver application and renewal. Licensed accessible taxicab owners and drivers providing accessible services in 2021 will receive program funds in 2022.