A report last year by the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission investigated wheelchair accessible taxis. It found people with a disability often have to wait too long for a taxi. Driver training is also often inadequate.
I live in regional Victoria and receive good service. But I also have experience catching taxis in Melbourne. I visit Melbourne often enough to have experienced problems with taxis. I can imagine people dependent on them would find it very frustrating.
My experience is that taxi services are often better in smaller regional cities. I live in Warrnambool. The population is around 30,000. Three wheelchair accessible (multi-purpose) taxis are on the road during weekdays. The number of users is smaller and travel distances are shorter compared to Melbourne. But I want to highlight the positive experiences I have had.
Taxi operations in my town are based on 20 minute jobs. This generally allows enough time for the driver to assist the passenger to embark and disembark and get to the next booking. When I book staff always advise if they cannot meet my pickup request. I am never told the taxi will be there
as soon as possible. Taxis are also rarely more than five minutes late from the agreed pickup time. It helps ensure I can carefully plan my day and get to appointments. If there is going to be a delay I know about it. It just might mean changing my expectations, doing something else at home or taking a book to read. This reliability sure beats being in
multi-purpose limbo. People with disabilities have plans and schedules too. We are also not immune to boredom.
Not as efficient
Melbourne's taxi system faces extra challenges to be as efficient as Warrnambool. There are a much larger number of customers and vehicles. Travel distances to customer, destination and the next customer are much longer. There is also city traffic to deal with. But I am sure the service can be improved. Particularly when global positioning systems (GPS) and high-speed communications are already used by the taxi industry.
The Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report recommended increasing the number of licenses for wheelchair accessible taxis. It also recommended improving driver training. I think more could also be invested in scheduling and monitoring systems. It could help streamline the booking process and improve reliability.
The Victorian Government recently announced an inquiry into the taxi industry. The inquiry will include an examination of the service provided to people with a disability. There are details about how you can make a submission at the Taxi Industry Inquiry website (opens new window).
The Victorian Council of Social Service has also organised a forum so you can have your say. The forum will take place on July 20 at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. Registration is essential using the Eventbrite website (opens new window).