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City Will Offer Same-Day Paratransit Service

Woodstock City Officials are taking exception to comments made by a paratransit user on Heart FM. Margaret Ainsworth vented her frustrations with the new system employed by the city since December that requires users to book a ride a day in advance. But Mayor Pat Sobeski says users don't necessarily have to call 24-hours in advance to get a ride. "We're conscious that there are emergency needs, medical appointments that come up. So someone can call for a Paratransit service on the day they need it, and we'll slot them into the schedule. Medical emergencies, they will receive priority." The purpose of booking rides 24-hours in advance, is to manage the system, and possibly to group riders that are heading to the same place, like an event at Southgate Centre. Sobeski says the old system was abused by some, who were using the taxi service 80 to 120-times in a month. The city would then receive a shoebox full of reciepts, that continued to grow as months went by. He says it just wasn't a sustainable system. "It was very good. Pick-up the phone, call a cab, and it was there. But again, it was subsidized by the taxpayers. Whether or not the province came along with changes to the Accessibility Act, we were probablay going to have to make changes because if we didn't, the cost would just conintue to escalate. City Council made a conscious decision that we had to bring fiscal stability to the program." Paratransit users that have any questions or concerns about the system are advised to contact the City Clerk's department (539-1291). Here's a statement from the city this morning in response to concerns raised by Margaret Ainsworth in Thursday's report: "It is Paratransit policy that if we get them to the doctor, we will get them back again. If a client is unsure of the pickup time, they are advised to call dispatch when they are done their appointment. In regards to medical appointments, we accommodate without 24 hours notice or if the client calls and there is room on our vehicles. To date, there has never been an occasion, where our buses were full and we could not accommodate. It is also the policy that if there is space available, we will fit in same day ride requests. Since the changes have been made, we have had space available at almost any time of our running hours. If any paratransit rider would like to come in and discuss their concerns, they are more than welcome to. I know that Amy and Louise spend alot of time talking with Para users explaining the new system."

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