A Closer Look At Wheelchair Taxi Services Around Australia
The introduction of wheelchair accessible taxis (also known as WATs) has greatly benefited Australians (and visitors) with disabilities. Whilst every state and territory has WAT services and subsidy schemes, it is important to note that they do vary greatly. This can create problems for disabled citizens who wish to move interstate or who are planning a holiday. In this article, we have aimed to outline wheelchair taxi services and subsidies for your convenience.
The Transport Accessibility Standards outline the minimum compliance requirements for WATs in Australia as a whole (such as the minimum size and dimensions if the allocated space required to accommodate a passenger using mobility aids). The standards also require drivers to provide the same level of service to passengers with a disability and to ensure that the response times for booked vehicles are the same as that provided for conventional ones.
As of the first of May 2012, there were 609 WATs operating in the Sydney metro area and 228 operating in the outer metro, rural and regional areas. Disabled residents can apply for the Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme, which provides a 50% fare subsidy with a maximum claim of $30 per trip (there are recommendations for this to be increased to $100). To encourage drivers to respond to bookings, they are able to claim $8.47 for each wheelchair passenger.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads has introduced wheelchair taxis to 55 regional and rural areas, whilst the Government has allocated $4.8 million to assist with the purchase of WATs for almost 70 regional areas. They also fund a Taxi Subsidy Scheme, which offers a subsidy of half of the fare with a maximum claim of $25 per trip. Brisbane City Council offers a subsidised cab shared service in most suburbs; each one-way trip costs between $1 and $3.
There are currently 429 wheelchair taxis operating on Victorian roads, covering metro and regional areas. The Taxi Services Commission provides a Multi Purpose Taxi Program, which subsidies fares for Victorians with severe and permanent disability who also experience financial hardship (with a maximum claim of $60 per trip). To encourage drivers to respond to bookings, the Government pays them a lifting fee $16 for loading and unloading wheelchair passengers.
There are currently 104 WATs operating in Perth. The Department of Transport offers a Taxi Users’ Subsidy Scheme, which offers a reduced fare rate for people with a severe, permanent disability that will always prevent them from using conventional public transport. Drivers are offered a $15,000 vehicle modification grant, half price WAT plate lease fees for 6 months (for new applicants, and a lift fee per passenger of $10 for private bookings or $12 for radio bookings.
Whilst all Australian states and territories have wheelchair taxi services in the major cities and larger regional and country towns, it should be noted that some smaller rural and remote areas have no taxis or none that are wheelchair accessible. Even though there are incentives in place for drivers to convert to WATs, there is still a lack of transport for disabled people in some areas. It is hoped that this will improve in the future.
The following article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.