Para Transpo information session and workshop: general questions

Questions, comments or suggestions received

Please note this questions and answers sheet is sorted by topic, not by session.

Information Session

Q1. Speakers were very difficult to hear due to the echo in the room, for a hearing-impaired person this also includes responses from the public.

Q2. Meeting space - very poor acoustics engineering, noise from cleaning machines, passers by noises, and ambient noises. Disruptions, distractions, and hard for people with hearing loss.

Q3. This venue is too noisy.

A1 – A3. We apologize. For our particular group, this was our first time using Jean Pigott Hall at City Hall, and we didn’t realize the sound would be so difficult. We’ll keep it in mind for future sessions.

Q4. Will there be any sessions on how the service is?

A4. We aren’t scheduling a customer feedback session right now, but we’ll keep it in mind. But any time you want to submit comments, you can always call Customer Relations at 613-842-3600 or use our online form.

Q5. Where are the city councillors here?

A5. The Councillors were made aware of today’s session, but weren’t specifically invited, as it’s a customer meeting where we wanted to hear from you directly.

Q6. A lot of people tried to ask questions about scheduling, and every single time they were cut off with the standard "We don't have time for all the questions. Please write it down and we'll answer all the questions later."

A6. We’re sorry if you didn’t get your questions voiced, but in order to have time for the Online Booking workshop, we had to limit the time on the question periods. But this “questions and answers” sheet is exactly what we promised – all the questions we got will be sent to everyone, and will be answered as best we can.

Q7. This Para-transpo survey was poorly publicized - I heard only one sentence about it on local radio and had to look hard on the internet to find any mention. Accordingly, I would like to know the results of the survey.

A7. The session was meant to be an update for the people who came to the 2015 sessions, so we sent them e-mails directly or called them, but then we opened it up to other people when we knew there was still space remaining. We did advertise it on the front page of octranspo.com.

General customer service

Q8. Is there anyone from OC Transpo conventional services at this meeting?

A8. We are from Customer Service. We represent both Para Transpo and OC Transpo.

Q9. It is obvious customers would like more communication with Para staff. Would you consider having open meetings to allow people to voice their concerns and ask questions, maybe twice a year? At least please, have some sort of newsletter. Now I know about the alerts – I’ll try it, but for instance the bus drivers often don’t know the fares or fare changes

A9. We will be looking at having more meetings if we can. It’s a big task to organize large meetings like these, so it depends on our staff’s capacity and our budget. The idea of a newsletter is a good one, thank you, and we’ll look at it.

Q10. As a health care professional and a user for Para Transpo I think it is a violation of human rights. I want to make a statement, I am not asking a question. Since 1983, I’ve been dealing with people on Para Transpo. Lately I have worked part-time – I worked at DND high tech, and your service has not changed since the 1980s. If you say people have to book between 7 and 9 the day before, but if the person I am looking after was quadriplegic, I have to get her out of bed, feed her, and she doesn’t have time to get on the phone and call Para Transpo. From the 80s until now, and it’s 2018, services have not changed. If someone gets asked to go for dinner that day, they can’t. Why do we make it so everyone else in this world who can get somewhere… why is it for everyone who is disabled why is it different? Why can we not be asked? Shouldn’t it be fair for all of us?

A10. (as given at the meeting) Thank you for comments, today is about making change and we will only be continuing. Our service will only get better by listening to you. Please work with us.

We have public consultations, and it’s important to hear everyone’s voice. We ask that there is respect amongst all of us tonight. Staff will stay as long as we need to tonight to talk to anyone.

We do not want to get into a debate about what has and hasn’t changed at this time, as everyone has a different experience with Para Transpo. We do acknowledge that we have improvements to make. That being said, we provide 33,000 unique trips a day. That is a monumental effort, and the resources that Council provides to us are ones that we try to manage to the best of our ability.

Q11. How will you deal with the fact that this system services a vulnerable population who depends on your services, and accordingly, because of concerns that future service will be impacted, they hesitate to identify service issues?

A11. We deal with any complaints we receive very seriously. If there are ever impacts to future services, please don’t hesitate to contact us, and it will be dealt with fairly and comprehensively.

Q12. Can the OC website be translated into any other languages?

A12. We currently only offer web services in English or French, but if you ever need assistance, our call centres have access to a translation line so that they can discuss things with you through an interpreter if required.

Q13 Vehicle-for-Hire Program - could this please be defined?

A13. Information is available at https://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-engagement/projects/vehicle-hire-accessibility-fund-public-consultation, or you can contact Leanne.Watson@ottawa.ca for more information.

Q14. Why there isn’t a Para Transpo Customer on Transit Commission?

A14. The public commissioners on the Transit Commission are appointed through a recruitment process. Any member of the public is free to apply. At the beginning of each term of Council, there is an open recruitment. Watch Ottawa.ca for more information, and it will be advertised. If you want to be advised when recruitment starts, you can e-mail committees@ottawa.ca.

Q15. Other than these points, Para Transpo service has been very much appreciated by our family.

A15. Thank you for your kind words.

Q16. I am quite looking forward to changes involving online booking and better integration of Presto cards on Para Transpo. Those changes will definitely save some time.

A16. We hope to keep making service better.

Q17. The Para Transpo staff should be complimented on their attempts to improve Para Transpo services. These services are essential for those of us who are brought to the point in their lives where they require them. Most clients never imagined that they would be in this situation. Many fully-abled people today have no idea that the same fate might befall them sometime in the near or distant future. The Para Transpo drivers should also be thanked for their incredible dedication, skills, patience, care and compassion. Most clients are not in a position where they can express their deep appreciation for the drivers and staff. As feedback is sought and improvements, it is very important for everyone involved in the Para Transpo services at the end of the day to realize the depth of the gratitude clients feel towards each and every one of you. This is not nearly said enough! But THANK YOU ONE AND ALL!!

A17. Once again, thank you for your kind words.

Rural Fares

Q18. Rural issues were not addressed, and the biggest problem is that rural to rural trips on Para Transpo is not available. Sometimes people need a short ride t the medical center or a senior’s activity. That comes up, and there is not time to get a volunteer ride.

Q19. Is there Para services from one rural destination to another close by rural destination?

A18 – A19. No, unfortunately. It’s not a service that is offered or funded by the City. We don’t go from one rural location to another. There are other agencies or services available that do offer this service, and we can certainly provide you with a listing if you call us. You may also want to consider using the taxi coupon program as well for last minute trips.

Q20. Why is bus fare to the Rideau Carleton Raceway quite expensive, and the casino in Quebec is regular fair?

Q21. From Orléans, Para Transpo offers rides to the Lac Leamy Casino, but cannot offer service to Les Promenades de l’Outaouais, which is really not much difference in distance. Actually, I can go from Orléans to Stittsville which is much further.

A20 – A21. The Rideau Carleton Raceway is in what’s considered a “rural” area, and so we have to charge the rural fare. The Casino Lac Leamy is considered part of the downtown core, so it would be regular fare. Our license for public transit services only covers the core in Gatineau, so we can’t go as far as Les Promenades de l’Outaouais, unfortunately.

Service Animals and Pets

Q22. Will we ever be able to make a special booking to bring our pet to the vet only? I understand service dogs are allowed why can’t I, since I use an electric wheelchair, it’s impossible to get someone to take me.

A22. Previously pets were not allowed on any OC Transpo vehicle, regular or para transit. These rules have changed as a result of recent By-Law amendments approved by the Transit Commission on February 21, 2018. The new rules will be adopted and we will monitor any issues that arise.

Q23. Can people who are allergic to dogs know if they will be in a bus with a dog?

A23. We will make our best efforts to ensure that any customer’s trip is both safe and comfortable. It is important that any conditions are known during any assessment or renewal of your Para Transpo status. It’s difficult to do, because your bus or taxi may be changed at the last minute if there are schedule delays. We could never promise. But we’ll ask the software supplier if it’s possible.

Q24. When someone travels on Para with a service dog that is uncontrollable (barking at others or other dogs), who should be the one to get off (safety / comfort), and is there any recourse to deal with uncontrollable animals?

A24. There are ways in which Para Transpo can schedule service animals apart if required. Complaints are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and should be brought to the attention of Customer Relations.

Q25. I want to mention that I have two service dogs, and sometimes they bark to alert me to something, and the gentleman was running. They don’t want the gentleman to get hurt. They are alerting me to help him not fall. Others expect my dogs to be guide dogs. The only way they can alert me is by barking. Some drivers do not understand this.

A25. Operators are trained on how to deal with a wide range of disabilities and the aids that assist customers. This includes service animals. If there are issues with individual Operators, please contact Customer Relations to provide details.

Q26. I have a service dog, but some drivers would not let him on. The dog will fit into a car, if the seat is moved up, but for a taller person they would need to move the seat back.

A26. If it was an issue with a taxi driver, it’s possible that we may need to list you as Para Transpo vehicle only, or have the issue addressed in a case-by-case basis. Please call us, and we will have to discuss to see what options there are.

Trip Prioritization

Q27. The system of first come first serve should be eliminated. A system of “Triage” should be in place (please get a vote). Meaning, there should be given priorities to people who have medical appointment, students, and work over someone who wants to go grocery, or playing cards, friend’s house, and etc.

Q28. With eligibility, you’ll be increasing - more people to register? Correct? Will there be any triage or system of how you will transport these people? If someone has a doctor’s appointment? Is that priority? Versus someone who goes to a coffee shop – would you triage that?

Q29. “No appetite for prioritizing ride request” – whose appetite? Management? Councillors? Some Para passengers? The current policy/practice of viewing all requests for rides as equal is a fallacious premise. Medical/house/hospital appointments are the same as discretionary requests. Everyone has quality of life issues. Casinos/shopping centres are not synonymous with needs-based requests.

Q30. They can make a reservation 1 month in advance but I cannot book in advance when I have a doctor’s appointment.

Q31. Why don’t the change the system to accommodate more important appointments such as doctors vs. going to the shopping centre?

Q32. Using Paratranspo services for occasional attendance for social functions is very important for those who are not only functionally disabled, but socially isolated. However, the service need is more essential and pressing for those who have medical, paramedical ,dental or any service appointments at a hospital, health care facility or office. Is there any possibility of triaging requests, or limiting the number of non-essential social event transports, if that means medical services for some will be inaccessible?

Q33. It seems like prioritization of trips.

Q34. Let a professional book (doctor, dentist, lawyer) call or fax and book months in advance. Email, pdf, fax, app (similar to 311) the OC Transpo Customer Service Centre accepts booking.

Q35. Request for a medical hot line

Q36. Why do some people have priority?

A27 – A36. We understand the different opinions on this issue. There is no common agreement among all customers – and we must balance different customer situations. The issue was raised in the 2015 consultation, and the answer we got back was although people agreed there should be priorities set, that there was overall no appetite to prioritize trips, because “social” trips are a part of quality of life. Take the example that someone may go to a shopping mall – it may be their only trip out that week to get groceries, or to pick up a birthday gift or something else that most people would take for granted. Or even a visit to the casino could be a chance to see friends that you haven’t seen in a while. We can’t police that, and be asking questions about the nature of a person’s trip. And we can’t take away from a person’s quality of life.

2015 consultations results report

The report states:

Although 57 per cent of survey respondents agreed that Para Transpo should prioritize trips, with medical, work and shopping essentials being the priorities, feedback was mixed. A common theme raised at the stakeholder consultations and in questionnaires was that a person’s mental health and social inclusion is highly important. Some respondents felt that leisure activities are important in establishing a balanced lifestyle and in encouraging participation in the community, and thus should not be considered less of a priority than other essential categories.

Cooperative Seating on OC Transpo buses

Q37. The message that is played on OC Transpo buses about reserved seats at the front does not seem to help. What more could be done to avoid people not able to use those reserved seats?

A37. We understand that this can be frustrating for people who need seats in the cooperative seating portion of the bus. While the seats are not reserved, we do encourage our customers through many different ways to ensure they make room for those who need it. This includes:

  • Continuing the Busology campaign, online, in print, in social media and with posters on buses and in transit shelters that encourage cooperative behaviour on public transit
  • Promoting cooperative seating through public service announcements on buses
  • Monitoring best practices on cooperative seating communications and signage used by other transit agencies, to identify future opportunities
  • Offering Priority Seating cards for customers, which indicates to other customers or operators that they require seating in the cooperative seating area

 

Q38. Para is promoting the use of regular OC buses for wheelchair riders, but it feels that tying down a wheelchair is detrimental to the service.

A38. There is a “stability belt” on OC Transpo buses in the cooperative seating areas. This is intended to stabilize the mobility device / wheelchair, but is not intended to secure the person into the wheelchair. It is a self-serve device, as our operators would not be in a position to leave their seats to help a customer secure themselves. The regular OC Transpo services do not provide this level of service, because having tie downs that a driver helps the customer with on our conventional buses isn’t practical, based on the way our system works. That is why we have implemented a mixed-use model.

Q39. I use both Para and conventional, if there is any more than 3 walkers on conventional, it is almost impossible to get mobility aids onto the bus. Now with more people using Para Transpo, it may not fit. It is a big concern and drivers get upset and yell at me to move my walker.

A39. We know that sometimes buses can get very crowded with passengers, all seats taken and those who have strollers or mobility devices. If the experience you are having is occurring every day in the same location, please let us know more details. If it is an occasional experience, then it is more difficult to address specifically as people choose to travel at all times. We make room for everyone – but sometimes people need to wait for a next bus. For conventional, we know the routes that are busy and we rely on drivers being professional and other riders to help manage this. Riders know what to do and how to help. We want to invite people onto conventional as there are more options and it is easy to use.

Q40. When I look at seasonal usage of Para Transpo- I think of regular buses and consider tying down wheelchairs on buses. Have been injured on conventional buses. In the ADA in states all drivers are mandated to tie down wheel chairs.

A40.  This is comparing our system to other transit services, and we do have and encourage people who can use regular bus system.  It’s an incredibly efficient way for those able to do it. Our goal never put a customer in an unsafe situation. Regarding tie downs on conventional buses, it’s not practical based on the way our system works, as the time required would be high and affect service. It has been looked at, although not recently.   We have a mixed model in use, and both are working. but we have enough challenges on conventional side. For example, Para Transpo customers going to big event, we would not want them on crowded bus.

Q41. I ride both OC and Para but last winter I wanted to get on a #14 going East at McArthur and North River Rd, the day was bitterly cold, and I was forced to wait for 5 buses, as the spaces were mostly filled with strollers and strollers can be collapsed. Finally a driver took pity, took me on and I was situated in the aisle near the driver and he had passengers use the back door in!

In my experience unless the person is on a wheel-chair, using crutches or has a guide / service dog rarely anyone gets up from the priority seats in OC Transpo buses and offer it to someone who needs it. Even when the disability is an obvious one. Not everyone who qualifies to sit on those priority seats feels confident enough to ask someone else to give up their seat. The announcements that are currently played in the buses reminding people of the fact does not seem to help much.

Making the seats more distinctly visible might perhaps help. Like of a strong different color. The stickers currently just blend into the background as well. I have noticed that people are less inclined to use the seats when they are in the upright position. In Vancouver, the priority seats naturally spring back up when not in use. That also constantly acts like a reminder that these seats are different. People there seem to more readily give up the priority seat than here. Though, I am not sure how feasible it is make that change. Having a strong visual reminder would likely help.

A41. Thank you for your comments. We will raise them with the operations group for consideration on future buses.

Booking trips and call wait times

Q42. Can our eligibility in Ottawa to use Para, use similar services in other cities?

A42.  We suggest you check with the other city on their policies.  We don’t share information between cities, because of privacy rules, but most para transit services let visitors use their system.  They would give temporary access for up to 2 weeks, normally.  In Ottawa, we facilitate travel for para users from other cities all the time.

Q43. Why are people not allowed to change their subscription bookings for the first month?

A43. As a guideline, when customers are setting up subscription bookings, we ask that they are made for a minimum of a month to ensure the scheduling of these regular bookings can occur. If there are reasons in which conditions change, cases should be brought to the attention of Customer Relations.

Q44. Is there a phone number to call should you be through an appointment 1 hour earlier than your scheduled pick-up to be picked up earlier?

A44. You can call the regular booking line, if it’s later in the day, and they can see if a bus or taxi could be available earlier. But we unfortunately can’t guarantee. If it’s still early in the day, and the booking line is busy, try the cancellation line.

Q45. During the day, it is extremely difficult to reach Para, i.e. if you’re at a doctor’s office and he is late seeing you and more time is required. I have had a difficult time to reach someone to have the time changed for my return home. Could there be a number to reach to get through quicker? (my experience has been ½ hour before someone finally answers)

A45. It all does depend on the time of day. If you find the regular booking line is busy, try the cancellation line. This is a recurring issue with customers and something that is being looked at further to see if there are other solutions possible.

Q46. My mother can no longer use the phone system for bookings as the wait times surpasses the amount of time that she can hold the phone.

A46. We apologize for the wait, but we have been working hard at improving the time it takes to answer the phones. We are also very close to introducing a “call back” feature which will help greatly in this situation. The approximate wait time in queue is also an option available with our new phone system, and we’re working on getting a system like that in place.

Q47. Since the wait times are so lengthy, knowing my number in the queue would be a tremendous help in managing my time.

A47. We just changed to a new phone system last year, and one of the options with the system is “estimated time in queue”. We are also very close to introducing a “call back” feature, which will help greatly in this situation.

Q48. If someone uses two different devices , can it be flexible when calling to say I will be using a wheel chair one day and a walker on another, without being told that it needs to be changed on the file (can discuss further).

Q49. If someone uses two devices (I use a walker and a wheelchair), when I do application form, can it be put on the file that the person uses two different devices

Q50. When I call to make reg bookings- I want to use wheelchair- certain places that I go I can use my walker. And it needs to be changed on file.

A48 to A50. Right now, our system only lets us put in one device at a time. We will take this concern and discuss with our software supplier to see what can be done for the automation portion. In the meantime, please ensure that our Customer Services staff are aware of your circumstance so that they can raise with supervisory staff.

Q51. I am a patient who books, and it seems to be the wait times are the problems.

Q52. Parent doing booking on behalf of family member and talked to staff members in past. Wait times seem to be the largest issue brought forward. Any time we try to book it has been 45 minutes or so.

A51 to A52. We continue to work on improving our wait times and have found that the current wait times are declining. We have been cross training staff from all of our call centres, so that they can help support the Para Transpo booking line. We’ve introduced new phone systems, which allow more people to call in at one time and not get a busy signal. We’re continuing to work on more improvements.

Q53. What if I have a doctor’s appointment every 2 months but I cannot book these appointments because they are not consecutive. What can I do? Your options do not cover this.

Q54. Accommodate clients with regular 2 medical appointments a month. For example, odd weeks are Mon./Wed./Fri. and even weeks are Friday only.

A53 to A54. We would be prepared to look at any individual case. The situation described may be eligible for separate subscription bookings. Please raise with Customer Services who can consult with our supervisory and scheduling staff. A “subscription” or “regular” booking is one that occurs on the same day and time every week. It if only occurs once a month, or at irregular scheduled times, that is a “demand” or “daily” booking by definition.

Q55. Para booked my transport 30 days ago. Did it work? Why can’t we?

A55. We didn’t book today’s trips a month ago, we just kept a manual list who would need a booking. We couldn’t do that all the time. Right now, we can’t book more than one day in advance for daily bookings, but we’ll look at advance bookings for future.

Q56. My Para Transpo number is (XXXXX). When I call in:

Redial up to 100 times or stay on hold:

  • November 29 31 minutes
  • December 2 19 minutes
  • December 5 4 minutes
  • December 6 21 minutes
  • December 13 15 minutes
  • December 18 14 minutes
  • December 19 40 + 40 minutes
  • December 26 15 + 10 minutes
  • December 27 14 minutes
  • December 28 15 minutes
  • January 4 20 you hung up +7 +2
  • January 8 10 minutes

This is my statistic. Where are Para Transpo’s statistics for calls?

A56. Wait times do vary every day. Some days are busier than others, and influenced by a number of factors. There is no doubt that customers can have long wait times, as it appears you did on December 19 and November 29. There are other days where the wait times are very low – as you experienced on December 5 and less than 15 minutes on two other days. We are working to reduce wait times – and continue to have a very low rate of refusals. There will also be a new call back feature introduced soon that will allow you more options and hopefully reduce the inconvenience of waiting on hold. At this point we do not provide call statistics.

Q57. For things like the Grey Cup in November – there is going to have to be a better way. It had an effect and how would you be able to handle big or massive events in a more fair way in doing it. It will need better planning the big question and concern is the 85 especially by the Civic Hospital. Online 14 days email.

A57. Right now, the only advance booking allowed is for statutory holidays. But with the online booking system, we’ll look at further advance bookings as well. We do guarantee trip bookings for ticketed events though, so if you had issues, please don’t hesitate to call Customer Relations to talk to us.

Q58. You need to hire more people to answer the phones. We can't call until the driver is 30 minutes late, but no one answers the phone. I am typically on hold for 20 minutes, and have to listen to that annoying "please hold" message every 20-30 SECONDS. Yes, that makes it approx.40 times that messages comes on. 40 times !!!

Q59. Can’t call until they are 30 minutes late, then it take 10-15 minutes to get through.

A58 to A59. We are still looking at making our phone system better, including for bus cancellations and estimated arrival times, and will be working on finding improvements.

Q60. Using the old system to book a trip it took me about seven to ten minutes to obtain a booking. Now with the new system it takes me thirty to forty minutes to make a booking. Why the change?

A60. This does not reflect the experience of most customers. Could you please contact Customer Service to discuss this specific question. We want to provide as many strategies as possible to reduce your wait time. You can also look at Q46 above.

Q60. Using the old system to book a trip it took me about seven to ten minutes to obtain a booking. Now with the new system it takes me thirty to forty minutes to make a booking. Why the change?

A60. This does not reflect the experience of most customers. Could you please contact Customer Service to discuss this specific question. We want to provide as many strategies as possible to reduce your wait time. You can also look at Q46 above.

Q61. I wish I could take each and every one of you away from your work desk to show you how this affects my mom (and let’s face it, is the system’s biggest complaint). She no longer calls, I do – all the time, every time because she can’t hold the phone that long. And to those who provide suggestions like “simply put the phone on speaker”, “call at another time” or “we are working on it”… sorry, but that is not enough.

A61. This is a question and theme we answered in another question, please see Q46 above.

Q62. If your audience were fully capable independent adults then yes, those responses would be acceptable – but they are not. Next time take a close look around the room, really close… for my mom, she barely understands how to operate her TV remote (her eyesight is diminishing fast so not only does she not understand HOW to put the phone on speaker, she can’t see the button), she has dementia (so the fact that she is trying to call ONCE is fantastic) and her arthritis is not getting any better, nor will it be cured by the time PARA comes up with a lower wait system… so the responses above are not helpful.

A62. This is a question and theme we answered in another question, please see Q46 above.

Q63. Let the client know where they are in the queue and approximate wait time – there is your answer. How wonderful to have increased the number of people on hold to 109!… but if you are number 3 and have been waiting for 15 minutes, KNOWING you are number 3 with 106 people ahead of you gives you options – put down the phone and do other things, take a shower, keep living until a few others have been served.

A63. The approximate wait time in queue is one of the options available with our new phone system, and we’re working on getting a system like that in place. It should be there in 2018.

Q64. Between other organizations, with your drivers, with your clients… consistent, clear communication - always. Navigating the PARA world is often difficult for me, so I understand completely when I hear the frustration spoken from your clients. I have still had no resolution to the fact that my mother’s City of Ottawa Worker informed me that we can’t use ParaPay because the City was not ready. Why is this still outstanding after almost a year? One group is right, one is wrong… and as the client – I am tired of trying to shift through all the talk to find out who it what.

A64. We will speak with our colleagues at Social Services, and make sure they are aware of the program. If you are continuing to have issues, please contact us in Customer Relations and mention this question.

Q65. Booking on weekends 7am - nothing available the next day late evening.

A65. Currently, we are trying to accommodate as many trips as we can. If you were refused when you called at 7 am, it may be an exception. We suggest you talk to Customer Relations about your specific situation.

Tracking a bus

Q66. Can customers be able to tap into GPS to verify where driver is so they have a rough idea where their ride is? This is already possible with conventional OC Transpo (e.g. Bus Buddy app). Would reduce customers having to call.

Q67. Any new system would be launched about scheduling routes, which will not only save the time/frustration passengers but will save money for the City.

Q68. Will phoning clients by the drivers be introduced in the future? To advise if they are late, or whereabouts of the client.

Q69. How about having access to GPS data like Uber (our app.) to see where the bus is?

Q70. Can we receive notice if our ride will be later than the 30-minute window?

A66 to A70. For Para Transpo to implement such systems would be a very large project and be a big job to get all the systems working together. It would involve matching up Para Transpo’s GPS system, the taxis’ GPS system, plus the scheduling system to know what trip each person is assigned to (and remember that trips can be reassigned last minute at times). When we get closer to looking at that project, we’ll come back to people for more information, like how you’d want to track it, would you like notices of late trips, and more.

Para Transpo operations and scheduling

Q71. I keep hearing that the budget has not been increased in 10 years. Has the budget been increased yearly?

A71. Every year, we present ridership figures to Council as a part of the budget process. The demand for Para Transpo fluctuates from year to year but gradually increases over time. Some years the overall demand decreases, some years it remains steady and some years we see a modest increase. OC Transpo has been able to increase the number of trips accepted and completed yearly for the last 5 years.

Q72. Why are we only using 82 buses when we originally had 98 buses? I was told it was because of cost of low floor buses.

A72. After a lengthy customer and stakeholder consultation period, OC Transpo replaced the aging fleet of 89 high floor mini buses, and gradually phased in 82 low floor buses at a cost of $13 million dollars, with the last high floor bus being retired in May 2016. The new buses have an increased customer capacity and allow for a quick boarding and de-boarding, which resulted in thousands of more customer trips per year. The same number of buses are in service on any given day as compared to the previous fleet, due to the fact there are less vehicles in for maintenance at any given time.

Q73. Is it possible to adjust the booking system so that rides can be arranged based on the preferred ARRIVAL times.

Q74. Is there a possibility of cancelling a model where the user provides the desired arrival time and Para would then assign a pick up time?

A73 – A74. Unfortunately, the scheduling system does not work that way, because we can’t predict the “unknown”, like traffic, weather, passenger delays, and more. We can only schedule based on pick up time.

Q73. Is it possible to adjust the booking system so that rides can be arranged based on the preferred ARRIVAL times.

Q74. Is there a possibility of cancelling a model where the user provides the desired arrival time and Para would then assign a pick up time?

A73 – A74. Unfortunately, the scheduling system does not work that way, because we can’t predict the “unknown”, like traffic, weather, passenger delays, and more. We can only schedule based on pick up time.

Q75. Use less taxi perhaps more Uber? Save money.

A75. The taxi service is under a contract issued by the City of Ottawa. When the contract is renewed, any company can submit a proposal to be part of the service.

Q76. Is there any way that the City can contract more than one taxi service to accommodate passengers who need minimal support to use public transit?

A76. There is more than one taxi service contracted for the services. Please also see Q75. above.

Q77. I need car only and front seat only, because my legs don’t bend – is there a way to ensure when scheduling that it specifies front seat only so that it is not just preferred? I have trouble sometimes because people won’t give up the front seat.

A77. If you have specific issues related to your disability, we need to understand them to ensure a safe and accessible trip. Please ensure you speak with Customer Relations to determine if anything should be changed. As well, we will talk to our software provider if we can add this, and work with the scheduling section if we can.

Q78. Can you/we arrange special trips? i.e. Christmas lights at Christmas time

A78. Customers can charter Para buses for this purpose. To get further information regarding rates, please contact Customer Relations.

Q79. LRT what is going on throughout the city and then getting to your destination. Understanding as to whether or not they will be expected to take a Para vehicle to Blair to take LRT to then be picked up at Tunney's to continue on to the west.

A79. That is not the case. Any changes of this significance for customers would be consulted and planned well in advance.

Q80. Question- do you do any forecasting of demand not just for this year but the next few years.

A80. The Para Transpo customer base has been very consistent for the last 10 years. The average number of people using the system has not changed. We regularly monitor the number of trips and people registered. Each year, when we go back to Council to report, we bring this information forward and make changes where required.

Q81. On Para Transpo, the driver has a 3-month booking. We get to work on time for 3 months, then oops, for the next 3 months we are late. Why?

A81. If you have a consistent issue, call our Customer Relations group at 613-842- 3600 and we’ll look into it.

Q82. Is it so designated with our Para number that we have vision problems Q83. For people with limited vision, could it be possible for the driver to come to the apartment building front door to notify the client that they are there, as I cannot see the driver at the curb. I have been waiting inside the front door and been designated as a “no show”!

A82 to A83. Operators have information regarding the customer and some types of disabilities. Vision impairment is one that is listed. All operators are required to announce their arrival in the common area or front door of a home by calling out the customer name and confirming their destination. If there are cases where this is not happening, please contact Customer Relations so that it can be addressed.

Q84. Do the taxi drivers get the same training as the drivers who drive the buses?

A84. Other than vehicular licensing, yes.

Q85. Why is there not a system in place to ensure that someone with a regular pick up and drop off gets a consistent driver? Such a system might reduce regular late pick-ups.

A85. This is possible for some customer trips. However, in some cases, it actually impacts overall productivity. If there are other customers that a trips can be paired up with, Para Transpo will try and schedule them together. If you have specific examples that you would like us to investigate, please contact Customer Relations with the details.

Q86. Please ask drivers to use heaters in winter weather. They might not like heat but clients suffer. We ask drivers for heat and they deny it or pretend to turn on the heat. We can see the dashboard that the heat is turned off! Some of us have vision.

A86. If you have issues with a specific driver, please contact Customer Relations. We will ensure that it’s addressed.

Q87. Why are Barrhaven and Kanata clients booked on the same run and Kanata clients are always the ones suffering on a ridiculous south Ottawa run? Kanata is not south Ottawa.

Q88. Please stop booking clients on runs going in the opposite direction to their destinations. Adding an extra 30 minutes to 60 minutes to the run. This causes late arrival to work or home.

A87 to A88. The scheduling system does take into account how close pick ups and drop offs are to each other, based on distances on a map, not by districts. If you are having a consistent experience where the scheduling is adding these kinds of times, please contact Customer Relations and refer to this question and answer. Our supervisory and scheduling staff can review certain trips that may be creating an unintended long trip.

Q89. What is the plan for drivers who talk on their phone and who have poor customer service?

A89. Contact Customer Relations and they will look into the situation. We track and raise these types of concerns (taxi service) at regular meetings.

Q90. Taxi / Para Transpo driver training – we are a bilingual city, training in English or French or another language. I had a driver who did not understand English.

A90. This will be looked into on an individual basis. We provide information and report back to operators and taxi drivers.

Q91. Why is it the when three people live near each other need Para Transpo, three buses arrived?

A91. There is a lot that goes into a trip (i.e. device, pick up time, location, etc..) Let us know when booking, that there are 3 people and that you are going to the same place and request that you all go together.

Q92. We had to take a taxi service for emergency and at times, the driver has been rude. Who do we talk to? I also have been short changed.

A92. If it was on a Para Transpo trip, call Customer Relations at 613-842-3600. If it was a private trip in a taxi, contact the company that you used.

Q93. Para Transpo has lost a least 6 drivers for various reasons - are there any plans to replace them?

Q94. We lost 8 bus drivers - two deaths and 6 retired – why are they not being replaced?

A93 to A94. OC Transpo continually monitors staffing levels and will hold hiring competitions when required. Rather than hold competitions one at a time, the City will wait until there is a need to hire enough to have a full class of trainees and avoid duplication and added expenses.

Q95. Is there anything that can be done to improve the kneeling function and suspension of the bus so drivers do not have to wait to drive?

A95. The City of Ottawa and Para Transpo are always looking to improve the service and the equipment used. When the City of Ottawa goes back to tender for new buses, the best technology is often requested.

Q96. Is there any way to control talking on the radio similar to the screen on the MDT (computer) going blank when the bus is in motion?

A96. The radio has to be available at all times for emergency purposes.

Q97. I have the same 7am ride from Barrhaven to downtown. Why can’t you regularly group other people with the same regular rides together?

Q98. Bus for 3 customers going to same place – 3 buses show up.

A97 to A98. The scheduling system does take into account how close pick ups and drop offs are to each other, based on distances on a map, not by districts. Individual cases should be brought forward to Customer Relations.

Q99. The population is rapidly aging and living longer most often with increased chronic diseases and limited functional capacity. Also the prevalence and incidence of debilitating conditions in those between the ages of 40 to 60 appears to be increasing. Many retired persons have limited financial capacity or flexibility that severely restricts their mobility options. Are projections provided by Ottawa Public Health, the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI) and the Champlain LHIN factored into Para Transpo service demand forecasts?

A99. See Q71 above.

Q100. Will there be additional sessions for training for different disabilities – in the past Para drivers were given training on how to best serve different people. Does this still happen?

A100. Yes. Para Transpo Operators receive training every two years.

Q101. How do you track reports of maintenance on buses?

A101. All maintenance is tracked on an internal system. Each unit is assigned a number, and everything to do with that vehicle is tracked, right down to fueling.

Q102. OC Transpo had signed a new contract with the taxis, but less drivers are taxi drivers because of Uber.

A102. The taxi company is under contract to provide a minimum number of taxi drivers for daily schedules. So our trips are not affected if there are less taxi drivers.

Q103. What can be done to stop drivers from smoking in vehicles before picking up customers? Many people have allergies to smoke and tobacco and are subjected to intense smoke in vehicles.

A103. Smoking is not allowed in any OC Transpo or Para Transpo vehicle. We do know, though, that the smell of smoke can linger on someone’s clothes. If you are certain that a driver is smoking in the vehicle, please call Customer Relations at 613- 842-3600 and we’ll investigate.

Q104. Inconsistency between drivers. Most are wonderful, some are simply collecting a paycheck – and a select few don’t deserve the job as they simply use it to pull power trips on those who depend on them. I bet you know who they are… because my mom does. She can tell you in an instant who go out of their way to help, who simply do their job without looking her in the eye and who make her wait, on purpose. This is an issue not only in the transportation world, but in elderly care so I am not expecting a response on this one – but felt it needed to be brought up.

A104. If you have a specific issue with a driver, let us know. If you give us the date and time, we can look into it.

Q105. It was made perfectly clear to everyone that you are all fully aware that scheduling is the biggest problem at ParaTranspo, yet you refuse to acknowledge this publicly and seemingly are not doing anything to alleviate the problem. Online booking IS NOT going to alleviate the issues if you continue to use the same program that makes up the actual schedules.

Scheduling two or three pickups at the same time "only 5 or 10 minutes" away from each other, is automatically putting everyone behind any kind of schedule. Dropping someone off in Nepean and going to the next pickup in Orleans/Kanata/downtown is automatically putting everyone behind any kind of schedule.

Picking someone up in Kanata, then going to Nepean for another pickup, then dropping the second pickup off 10 minutes away, then going all the way to Gatineau and dropping off the first pickup is automatically making the first pickup late for work EVERY SINGLE TIME. I know this lady has complained numerous times, yet it happens every week.

Why isn't the obvious being looked at??? Section off the city - "Nepean", "Kanata", "Orleans" etc. and start by making a schedule for "regular, every day pickups" (those people that still work, or have weekly medical appointments for treatment). They are on the schedule first. Then look at the "next day" requests, and fit those in appropriately. Person 1 dropped off in Kanata, then the next pickup will be in Kanata. Person 2 is dropped off in Nepean, hey - here's a thought, the next person will be pickup up in Nepean.

You have to stop relying on a computer system that DOES NOT WORK. Yes, maybe start with the computer, but then use some common sense and see where the "next day trips" or "last minute bookings" fit in with the regular schedule. Q106. Please re-evaluate your scheduling processes. Get a google map and that will show approx. travel time between addresses, then schedule accordingly. Seriously, paying a couple of people to do this manually will solve a lot of issues. It's pretty clear to the riders and drivers that you need a better system.

Q107. Drop off in Nepean should have next pickup nearby. There should be a set squad for regular schedules, then add-ons should be fit in with whoever’s schedule is the closest to time and location. Right now its drop off here, next pick up across town and a second pick up at same time but other side of town again. Two or 3 bookings at the same time… automatically set up for schedule FAIL and late pickups.

A105 to A107. We do our best to schedule similar trips together. However, sometimes it doesn’t work out. If you see a regular issue, report it to Customer Relations. They will look at individual cases and investigate.

Q108. The drivers need to be able to use their judgement, too. They know the streets and shortcuts. Let them decide if its quicker to drop or pickup someone rather than following the broken schedule.

A108. As long as it is cleared with the dispatcher, it is permitted.

Q109. Also, you seriously need to take into consideration RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC. We expect SHORT delays based on the weather, but you can't seriously expect anyone to be within 30 minutes of the schedule when stuck in rush hour traffic. This needs to be built into the scheduled pickups/drop offs.

A109. Para Transpo’s scheduling software does take into account rush hour traffic. It cannot, however, take into account all the other unknowns like accidents, detours, road closures and unexpected weather conditions.

Q110. I am new to Para, and I am only a 10 minute drive between home and work (15 in rush hour traffic), yet - even at 6 a.m. - I am usually an "add on" with my ride showing up closer to 6:30 am, and my ride at 3 pm is rarely there before 3:30, also an "add on". This example alone makes it pretty clear that the drivers can't keep up and have to pass along some pickups. If I am on a schedule that makes any kind of senses, then I wouldn't be an add on all the time.

A110. In order to investigate, we would need specific information for your particular trip. If this is occurring, please contact Customer Relations and provide details so that they can investigate.

Q111. I have a regular schedule. Why am I an “add on” about 85% of the time? (and late). Who makes the schedule? It is not working. Lots of complaints from every driver I’ve had. Does this person have a map of Ottawa? Use it. Does this person know when “rush hour” is?

A111. Drivers refer to some trips as “add ons” when they are trips that were not originally scheduled to them. With 400-600 cancellations in a day, and with the need to move trips to other runs to attempt to maintain service, a number of trips get reassigned regularly to alternate runs.

Q112. Can drivers deviate from pick up/drop off Quicker to drop A off and go for B, instead of take A out of way to B and then all the way back to drop off B again? Some say yes, others say no.

A112. As long as it is cleared with the dispatcher, it is permitted.

Q113. Para Transpo bus/vans are more reliable, but still have schedules that don’t make sense.

A113. Para Transpo strives to maintain the highest standard possible. There are times where the service does not meet the standard due to weather, traffic, detours and breakdowns. Para Transpo is always looking for ways to improve the service and on time performance by looking at industry standards and improvements.

Q114. Taxi are the worst… always late. Always excuses. HAVE to follow schedule, and on, two pickups at same time, some drive like maniacs… regular taxi calls fitted in between? (makes them later!)

A114. If you can provide information on specific trips you’ve taken, please contact Customer Relations to provide details for follow up.

Q115. Drivers can be 30 minutes late, but we have less than 5 minutes to get out there, so, I am standing there with hat, coat, boots dripping in sweat, waiting for a half hour for my ride, and I have to grab my purse, bag, cane, get outside and lock door behind me before they drive off.

A115. As a part of our service standards, Para Transpo has an agreed upon 30 minute window for pickup, and will have 60 minutes from the original agreed upon time to have a customer to their destination.

QX116. Most Mondays – pick up lady in Kanata, then pick up me in Nepean, drop me off at Cleo, then over to Gatineau to drop her… she is always late for work 30 – 45 minutes. Why not take her right to Gatineau? Pick up for me at 6:22 because had another pick up at 6 am then to another address for 6:30 pick up, then finally take me to work, and drop other lady at Riverside hospital.

Yesterday afternoon, add on (again) – driver said in Kanata when he got the call to pick me up in Nepean, then heading downtown to Albert St. for next pick up and returning to Barrhaven.

3:39pm taxi driver XXXX. ADD ON again with female passenger in back… down Merivale to Clyde to drop her at XXXX Maitland. Driver speeding like a maniac, slamming brakes on to avoid collisions.

Taxi arrives at 3:45pm, add on AGAIN, driver turned radio off so he could not take any more calls. Tried called OC after 30 minutes, and was on hold for 15 minutes. Finally hung up once taxi showed up.

A116. We are sorry you had such a bad experience. If you did not report the specific incident (with date) – could you please do so. As well, if these are happening on an ongoing basis, please contact Customer Relations to see if there are potential solutions. If you have specific incidents where you feel your scheduling is not going well, again, please contact Customer Relations to discuss. They will provide your feedback to the schedulers.

Q117. Drivers turn down Woodroffe and go to Baseline Rd., then all the way down Baseline to Greenbank and back to Monterey… additional 10 minutes or more with rush hour traffic.

Meters are left running – one day 3:25 pick up meter at $18 and went to $19.25 before driver reset for trip home. Taxis often don’t turn meter off when I am dropped off, and I notice them sitting outside for an additional 5 – 10 minutes… is meter still running? Why are they not going to next pick up?

A117. Taxi drivers do leave their meter running when dropping off and picking up at the same address. This is done to avoid the $3.45 start up charge at the beginning of every trip. If you believe there is an issue, please provide information on specific examples to Customer Relations for review.

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