Disabled demand better Dial-a-Ride service

The group of about 40 protesters outside the Civic Centre.

The disabled community showed their frustration with the Dial-a-Ride service, run by the City of Cape Town, in a heated protest march to the Civic Centre last week.

The service had to be temporarily halted at the beginning of the year when the City informed users via a media release that unexpected delays were experienced during the procurement of a new long-term six-year contract due an ongoing appeals process.

The users of the service established a user’s forum and forum members and members of Disabled People South Africa (DPSA) organised the protest march to call for a better service, improved communication between City officials and the users, and most importantly, the right to accessible transport.

During the protest march last Thursday April 25, people demanded answers from the City about the transport schedules, the number of buses, and overall delivery of the service.

Making their way to the Civic Centre, people could be heard chanting “No votes from us”, and “We want the mayor”.

They say the Dial-a Ride service for people with disabilities, contracted by the City to HG Travelling Services, had failed them.

The struggle of people with disabilities was evident when they could not hand over the memorandum because they were unable to mount the stairs at the Hertzog Boulevard entrance to the Civic Centre.

The protesters were directed to various points around the building, until some of them were eventually helped up a few steps by some of the able-bodied members, and then a scuffle with the security guards ensued.

The City says that while they are aware of the issues, they are stuck in a court battle with HG Travelling Services after they lost the tender.

Until the court proceedings are over, the City is unable to attend to any of the concerns as they are stuck with the contractor, said Mayco member for transport, Felicity Purchase, who came down to receive the memorandum after a previous official was sent away by protesters.

The provincial secretary of DPSA, Taswell Williams said he has been using Dial-a-Ride since 2003, and has always had problems.

Mr Williams suffered a spinal injury and has been left wheelchair bound. He said they’ve been told they cannot travel with carers anymore, but have no idea why.

“We miss appointments because we drive around for hours to pick up others. They prioritise school children and the workers, but what about the people who need to go to the doctor? What about people who need to go to funerals? It’s inefficient.”

He said when people talk about disability, they talk about inclusion. However, he said there is not an inclusive transport system for people with disabilities.

“We want the City to make more seats available, because we rely on services like Dial-a-Ride. We need more buses. We would also like them to fast-track the integrated transport system. Transport is essential – we cannot access interviews and work.”

Mr Williams said the City also needs to work with disabled people and include them in plans and decision-making as able-bodied people do not share the same challenges.

Elroy Lodewyk, from Bonteheuwel, who is a Dial-a-Ride forum member who works for DPSA, said Dial-a-Ride was failing its users. He said complaints about booking times, the waiting list, and the number of buses were coming on for years.

“We need answers. The City is aware of our complaints but they don’t give us answers. The number of buses declined from 24 to 20, which serves the entire city.”

He said two days before they marched for better services in 2016, the City called them to say that R10 million was made available for more buses.

“Where are the buses? Instead of getting more, we now have less. What happend to the money? It’s unfair towards the users.”

Carol Arendse, the vice-chairperson of the Dial-a-Ride forum, said despite numerous complaints, the disabled community is not receiving satisfactory service.

“We need to book transport seven days in advance, so if you get a doctor’s appointment in between or you need to attend an interview, you can’t get around. There are only 20 buses which can only occupy five wheelchairs and four seats per bus.”

Ms Purchase said HG Travelling Services had taken the City to court after they had lost the tender. She said while they have awarded a new tender, the court had halted the process.

In a statement, the City said they were engaging with the provincial government to increase its subsidy for the service.

“It is also requesting that national government provides a financial contribution which will allow for an increase in capacity,” said Ms Purchase.

Once the additional capacity becomes available the City will arrange for applicants on the waiting list to be assessed by an occupational therapist to ensure fairness and that due diligence is performed.

HG Travelling Services was appointed through a tender process and it has been providing the Dial-a-Ride service since December 1 2015. The tender with HG Travelling Services was for the period from 1 December 2015 and it was due to expire in June 2018.

Ms Purchase said in anticipation of the expiration of the current contract, a new tender for the Dial-a-Ride service was advertised on October 6 2017. The closing date was November 7 2017. The tender was awarded to WCL Trading, however, HG Travelling Services approached the Western Cape High Court to set aside the awarding of the tender.

The court granted HG Travelling Services an interdict that prevents the City from going ahead with awarding the operating contract to a new service provider until the case has been finalised in court.

Despite this, Ms Purchase said the service continues.

The service currently transports 350 regular users and 2 270 passengers use it on an ad hoc basis. The services are integrated with that of the MyCiTi bus service which also accommodates passengers in wheelchairs.

Users can lodge complaints to the Transport Information Centre on 0800 656 463.

She said there is a penalty system in place that monitors the vehicles and assesses punctuality and driver behaviour.

and for trip lengths longer than 60km it is R16. The Dial-a-Ride passengers currently only pay about 10% of the cost of providing the service.

SIDEBAR:

How the Dial-a-Ride service works

Applicants wanting to make use of the Dial-A-Ride service are required to phone the Transport Information Centre to obtain and to complete an application form. The service is currently oversubscribed.

To ensure fairness, new applicants have to be registered on a waiting list. They are required to undergo an assessment which is conducted by an occupational

therapist to determine whether the applicant is able to use conventional public transport services or not. The categories for this service are:

Regular users – those who use the service daily for travelling to work and school.

Regular ad hoc users – those who use the service at least three times a week for hospital visits, among others.

Ad hoc users – those who use

Fares

The City determines the fares

The current fares are as follows:

The trip length under 5km isR6,50, the trip length 5km to 10km is R8,50, the trip length 30km to 40km is R14,50, the trip length 40km to 50km is R15, the trip length 50km to 60km is R15,50

during the annual budget process after a comprehensive public participation process which offers residents the opportunity to comment on the proposed fares for each financial year.

the service for travelling to church, among others.

Users need to book in advance to make use of the service as it has a limited capacity.

Since July 1, the City has been allowing caregivers/travel assistants who are required on the journey to access this service if an occupational therapist has found that their assistance is necessary. Unfortunately, the City cannot make exceptions.