LINX Plus Service for people with disabilities in Simcoe County could be enhanced

Currently, specialized buses don't go more than 400 metres from existing routes

The County of Simcoe is proposing to enhance specialized transit service for people with disabilities.

The County operates LINX Plus Service along four routes(Barrie-Orillia, Barrie-Wasaga Beach, Barrie-Penetanguishene, Wasaga Beach-Collingwood), but the buses go no further than 400 metres from those fixed routes, providing door-to-door service and transfer to and from fixed routes.

County Council’s Committee of the Whole has given approval to a pilot project that would see the buses go beyond the 400 metres, possibly as much as one or two kilometres.

A staff report says the existing capacity in the specialized transit system will make it possible for persons in a rural area with disabilities to go where they need to go such as hospitals, medical appointments, work, out with friends and recreational pursuits.

“Buses would travel down concession roads where there is little traffic and time lost to help people in rural areas and get them to a hospital or other activities.” says David Parks, the County’s Director of Planning, Economic Development and Transit.

Specialized transit is a requirement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and must be offered wherever conventional bus service is provided, with the same hours and days of service as conventional transit.

The Specialized transit system is an on-demand service.

“A person fills out an application and describes the disability,” says Parks. “It is verified by a healthcare professional. The application is reviewed by the County with the healthcare professional to determine what the disability is and what types of needs they have.”

The application puts the individual on a service list and they can call Service Simcoe if they need to be picked up.

Eligibility for the service is based on the principles of fairness and equality, rather than age, income or ability, according to the staff report.

The County has a number of specialized buses depending on needs and services, including room for wheelchairs.

In justifying the pilot project, staff say the County continues to receive applications and requests for compassionate rides outside the current service areas, and the cost of other services such as taxis is beyond the reach of many residents due to cost or location.

There would be no additional cost to provided the enhanced service.

The pilot project must get final approval from County Council at the February meeting.