Staff Report #4
January 31, 2024
To All Commissioners
Re: Specialized Service Update Re: New Vehicles
That the report be NOTED and FILED.
At the August 30, 2023 meeting, the Commission approved an amendment to the contract for the provision of Specialized Services which provided the opportunity to introduce an alternative vehicle into the fleet. This amendment was sought as the result of extensive delays associated with the delivery of vehicles as specified in the existing contract which were negatively impacting the ability to increase service hours to match those that were budgeted.
The new vehicle differs from the original vehicles in that it is smaller, with the capacity for two mobility aid spaces and seven ambulatory seats. Additionally, the new vehicle utilizes a ramp for vehicle access versus the lift that is utilized on the existing vehicle. At the time of approval, it was noted that the functionality of these vehicles would be closely monitored as they were introduced into service with reports back to the Commission as applicable.
The new vehicles had all been added to service by the end of December, and since introduction there have been a number of concerns identified, including the following:
- given the height of the new vehicle being significantly less than the older vehicles, a number of customers have indicated they have bumped their head when boarding/alighting the vehicle;
- customers utilizing walkers have indicated they feel the ramp is too steep which leads to a feeling of unsteadiness when alighting the vehicle;
- customers with power wheelchairs have indicated the ramp feels steep when they are boarding the vehicle and they feel as though they may tip backwards; and
- one customer experienced difficulties in aligning with the ramp and as the result went off the side of the ramp
Administration has been in regular contact with the contractor with respect to these issues and any steps that could be taken to mitigate the concerns raised. With respect to the issues of feeling unsteady on the ramp and bumping heads while boarding/alighting, and alignment with the ramp, drivers have been trained and reminded to provide assistance during the boarding/alighting process when utilizing these vehicles.
With respect to customers utilizing power wheelchairs feeling unsafe, the initial approach was to honour requests from customers who indicated they preferred not to be scheduled to the new vehicles. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the scheduling software, coupled with the dynamic nature of the service with trips being re-assigned throughout the day in an effort to accommodate as many trip requests as possible, this solution did not result in the desired outcome. In a number of instances, customers who had requested not to be scheduled on the new vehicles had a new vehicle show up to pick them up, which then had to be reassigned resulting in the customer having to wait for an alternate vehicle. As such, administration has taken the step of eliminating the ability of assigning any customer with a mobility device to the new vehicles until such time as further assessment can be undertaken with respect to the perceived trip hazard. These vehicles will remain in service daily, but for the time being, will be utilized for ambulatory trips only.
Given the experience to date with this new vehicle design, it is unlikely that administration will recommend adding any more of this configuration to the fleet. Going forward, should the growth budget be approved, the contractor will be requested to return to the original vehicle specification to accommodate increased service hours. The contractor has indicated that delivery times for the original vehicle specification have significantly improved and as such, returning to the original specification should not pose an impediment to increasing service hours if the budget is approved.
Shawn Wilson, Director of Operations
Concurred in by:
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager