This was the second session at the Advocacy Sector Conversations forum held at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre on 28 June 2018.
The Transport Accessibility project was undertaken by the Disability Resource Centre to capture the experiences of Victorians with disabilities who use (or want to use) public transport, taxis and Uber. Kerrie Cassidy and Katherine Marshall share their findings and outline the next steps arising from the project.
Then Colleen Furlanetto takes the floor. She started her new role as the Disability Commissioner at the Taxi Services Commission in January 2018. Colleen outlines her plans for the industry and what her focus will be during her term.
KERRI CASSIDY, DISABILITY RESOURCE CENTRE
….been around about that long. We conduct individual advocacy for people with disabilities over 18 and we also do systemic advocacy from time to time. The DRC staff are managed by people with disabilities and we’re a member driven organisation.
About the project: The goals of our transport project are very simple. One, to understand the major transport issues for Victorians with disabilities and to understand the everyday impacts that inaccessible transport has on individuals and communities. You might expect we have nothing new to say because many of the issues that Katherine is going to present to you you would’ve heard numerous times before. You would’ve heard that transport issues are one of the major problems and blockages for inclusive communities. It affects everything we do.
Our methods were fairly simple. We held public forums across Victoria and I have to apologise if you can see the map one of my stars has fallen from where we had a forum. We were actually in Shepparton not Bendigo or Maryborough. We had five forums, one in Melbourne, one in Dandenong and three regional areas Sale, Ballarat and Shepparton.
We also had an online survey and Katherine is going to share some of the results from that today and conducted some one on one interviews to get some real in-depth understanding on individuals experiences.
I’m going to hand over to Katherine, she’s going to talk about I guess some of the main issues that came up throughout the project and we’re going to share just some quotes from people who’ve participated along the way.
KATHERINE MARSHALL, DISABILITY RESOURCE CENTRE
Hi everyone, I’m Katherine I was the transport project officer who worked on this project. I just want to share with you some of our findings. As Kerri said a lot of it is not new to you particularly if you’ve been working in disability for a long time or if you have a disability yourself. I think it’s still good given it was our goal to share the real life experiences of people with disabilities it’s important to share them with you today.
Before I get into that, I just want to discuss the disability standards with you briefly just so that we can have sort of a starting point and talk about what the Australian Government recognises as the responsibilities of service providers and the Government in creating accessible transport.
The disability standards for accessible public transport came about in 2002 so that was 10 years after the Disability Discrimination Act was brought in in 1992 I believe. The goal of the standards is to eliminate discrimination within the public transport system. The time frame, which you might laugh at now, was supposed to be a hundred percent accessibility by 2020. There was supposed to be 90% accessibility by the end of 2017.
There are some limitations with the disability standards one that’s been noted by us and by some of the other organisations that we’ve worked with is the review process. The review process is supposed to occur every five years roughly. We’re up to I think the third now they’re taking submissions for. There’s some limitations in terms of the data that’s actually available to us. We haven’t been told on any official capacity what percentage for example of accessibility there is within the Victorian transport system. Without that knowledge without knowing what’s actually compliant with the standards and what’s not compliant, we don’t know where we’re at.
If there is an issue with accessibility for example, we don’t know if it’s because say a ramp is too steep for a person using a wheelchair. We don’t know if that’s because that ramp is not compliant with the standards or whether that’s because the standards are not meeting the needs of the community. It’s really important for us to review the standards and have some meaningful data there, which is something that we will advocate for.
I’m just going to speak about some of the issues that came up for us. There were many many issues; we’ve chosen some that came up over and over again. If you were at one of our consultations and don’t hear us talking about what you said don’t worry it will be in the report. This is some of the I guess common themes.
The first is safety. This was brought up across all of our consultations so at our forums, each forum during the survey quite consistently and also in our one on one interviews. Safety issues range from issues with staff, issues with the public and then there were some mode specific issues. For example, staff issues where the customer service staff whether its train drivers, bus drivers or Public Transport Victoria staff across the board there was a lack of understanding about what disability actually is, what accessibility is and that created a lot of barriers for people using transport.
I think it’s a major issue because our system is inaccessible and it forces people to rely on staff members in order to catch public transport. For example, if you’re catching a train and you’re relying on a train driver to allow you to get on a train by putting the ramp down you’re relying on that person. If that person is discriminatory towards you or says something inappropriate, you don’t have the option to just ignore them because you actually rely on their services. Our inaccessible system has placed that burden on people with disabilities which is why raising the awareness of disability and accessibility with staff is so important.
As you can imagine there was also some issues with the public being discriminatory, refusing to give up priority seats and altercations across the board. Then the most specific issues I’ll speak about a bit later but I will mention that was particularly buses were probably the mode of transport that came up most often when talking about safety.
I’ll just talk about trains and I will try to get through these quickly because I know some of you have heard this or experienced these issues many times before. Some of the common issues as I said the lack of independence of having to rely on the driver. With the older trains or most trains actually, was a big issue that came up for people and that feeling that you’re vulnerable because you have to rely on another person and you don’t know that person. You don’t know if they respect you or not and those services people share that experience of that being quite discriminatory.
Access to train stations was an issue particularly stations where there’s say one elevator on the station, on the platform and that’s the only way to access the platform. If that elevator is out of service, which happens quite regularly people who require say for example, if you’re in a wheelchair or use a mobility aid, and can’t walk up the stairs you’re stuck at that platform. Whether you’re trying to get on or off you just can’t. We had an example of someone out at Water Gardens saying they have a list of people they call because it happens so regularly. They have a list of people they call who say don’t bother to get on the train today you can’t get off the platform.
There were also some issues with the PSOs at the station particularly accusing people of being drunk or on drugs when asking for assistance. People who had acquired brain injury I think this was probably the most common group of people who reported that.
We did have some positives for the trains. One being they’re more reliable in terms of the timetable than say buses, taxis or trams. There are new stations I think Noble Park was the first to have the independent boarding stations. There’s a few on that line, a few train stations where if you’re in a wheelchair you can actually go straight onto the front door of the front carriage without assistance from the driver which is a first. They’re rolling it out on that line. I think there is maybe three stations that have those accessible roll on roll off platforms. That was a real positive and people who lived near those stations were really encouraging that to be I guess spread to the rest of the network. I think Kerri has an example for us.
This is a quote from someone on our questionnaire:
“Having invisible illnesses as a young woman means that using or getting a disability seat on trams is difficult and I’m often judged for using them whilst looking healthy. I have been turned down by people for asking for a seat on packed trams and trains resulting in me sitting on the floor, which is incredibly humiliating hence why I avoid public transport.”
So next, we will go to trams. Trams were quite problematic for wheelchair users mostly because of the lack of accessible tram stops and trams. For those of you who are not aware there are low floor trams and when they are used in conjunction with a platform that is raised you’ll see those raised platforms for example in Northcote and Richmond, when they meet up a wheelchair user can wheel on and off without assistance. That’s basically the only way to access trams if you are a wheelchair user in Melbourne.
That’s great but the problem is I think there’s 420 by the end of this year, raised tram stops and there’s over 1,000 that are not consistently placed on the tram lines. Often people reported that they could get on the tram and then they couldn’t get off the tram because the stop they wanted to get off at was not accessible, it wasn’t a raised platform. They had to go all the way to the end of the line and come back again. Usually they would ask someone and they’ve been told yeah you can get off there that’s fine because that staff member didn’t understand the question and didn’t understand accessibility so that’s a major barrier.
When it works it works well the problem is because there’s a small number of trams that are accessible and a small number of tram stops. When they line up that’s great but most of the time they don’t, which means they’re unreliable if you’re relying on that as a consistent method of transport. I guess it’s a positive when it works the negative that it’s not working often enough.
I’ll move onto buses. As I mentioned safety was a big issue with buses. I’m sure anyone who’s been on a bus probably all of you hopefully all of you would know that bus drivers tend to take off and brake really quickly. They take corners really quickly. That’s dangerous for anyone but then you’re more at risk if you’re for example, in a wheelchair or you have mobility problems or struggles, balance. There is a number of issues there.
There were many people who reported falling out of their wheelchair or falling out of their chair and injuries were occurring. People also reported that bus drivers not waiting for them to sit down particularly people who talked about having an invisible disability talked about getting on the bus. This is also an issue with trams the driver will just take off immediately and they’ve fallen over or been injured because they haven’t been able to get to a seat in time. So lack of awareness from bus drivers of the needs of people with different disabilities.
There were some positives with buses particularly in rural areas. There were some instances where a person who had perhaps I think it was usually wheelchair users said they developed a relationship with the driver so they knew what their needs are and the driver I guess did their job. I was going to say be patient but it’s not really a matter of patience. They met the needs of the user so that was quite positive. I guess it’s quite difficult if you don’t have a regular driver, that makes it quite difficult but that was a positive that came out of it.
Taxis and ride share, there were quite a number of issues that came up for taxis and ride share. I will mention all of our consultation was based around taxis and uber. I know the commercial passenger vehicle industry is undergoing some reforms and there are some more services popping up but taxi and uber was all that was relevant. In quite a few cases there was no uber anyway it was just taxis.
There were major issues with the reliability of taxis. It doesn’t matter how far in advance you book your taxi it only goes into the system something like 20 minutes before. Don’t quote me on that time but it is a short time before. It was very common for people to report they missed appointments because the taxi was late, the taxi came three hours late or it didn’t come at all. In particular rural areas where there’s one to two taxis and then if a taxi is taken on a long route that taxi is taken out of the service for the day and it means people won’t meet their appointments, their plans will be completely set aside because they can’t get there.
There was a real discrepancy between the ability and understanding of the taxi drivers in wheelchair accessible taxis when assisting someone into the vehicle. There were some people that said they had a great driver who they knew and it was a great positive that came out.
“I know this driver, I know that they respect me, they understand what they’re doing and what I need and they help me into the vehicle and I feel safe.”
Then there were people who said;
“I have different taxi drivers every time. I don’t know who I’m going to get they don’t respect me. I don’t feel safe in the taxi with them.’
So there was a pretty big gap in experiences for people using taxis. There was an issue again in rural areas if you have one or two taxis. If you make a complaint about that taxi driver or you have an issue they know where you live they know, where you’re going they know your regular appointments and they can just not pick you up or prioritise other people. There was a bit of a difficult situation if you’re in that position which did come up for some of our participants.
Uber drivers, uber is interesting. There is uber assist, which is wheelchair accessible ubers, wheelchair accessible vehicles. The issue is when people log on and just tried to use it there is no drivers. We didn’t get any feedback from uber assist because no one had been able to use it that we’d spoken to. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist or there aren’t any but all the people we’d spoken to which was about 400 in the end no one had an experience with uber assist so obviously there’s some issues there.
Then in regular ubers, there was issues with understanding of disability. There are lots of people as you all know who perhaps are manual wheelchair users and can transfer into the vehicle themselves or don’t use a wheelchair but have a disability, which we all know is the majority of people with disabilities. There was just no understanding of what disability is the consideration that perhaps people would have a different need. There were quite a few issues with uber and the lack of understanding, the lack of training.
I mentioned the limited services in areas and in rural areas. I think Kerri might have an example for us.
“I have been harassed because of my sex and gender using both uber and taxi. I don’t understand social structures set up in uber and the rating system means that I could get rated poorly due to being autistic and people not understanding me. Taxi drivers have thought that I was on drugs so did not pick me up. They are expensive and I don’t get any compensation. I literally got lectured by an uber driver yesterday because they have rules around where they prefer you to be picked up that I’m not aware of and he made me cry.”
The next topic I will talk about quickly because we’re running out of time is information and accessible information. The most common issues were that there are announcements of trains, trams, buses and also at train stations audio announcements for perhaps if there is a change of circumstances. They’re audio only there is no visual equivalent, which means if you’re deaf or hard of hearing you don’t know what’s going on. People reported that they were quite stressed and didn’t know what was happening because no one would tell them. They felt really stuck. That was a really common issue. The other sort of related issue is announcements when you’re actually on the tram or train. They’re not always correct, they’re often missed and they often don’t have a visual equivalent. That’s the audio announcements.
The other major issue was staff giving incorrect information about accessibility. Doing your best to ask and say this is where I’m going this is what I want to do are these services accessible and staff saying yeah they’re accessible you will be fine then turning up and they’re not actually accessible, you’re stuck at whatever point in the journey is not accessible you’re stuck there. That was a big issue as well.
Lack of community consultation was a major issue. Some people talked about the fact they’ve never been consulted about what their accessibility needs are whether by PTV or VLine, the various service providers. Obviously, there is consultation we know consultation exists but we got pretty consistent feedback that the consultation process was they felt quite tokenistic. That word actually came up at every single forum we went to which I thought was quite important to note because obviously as you all know, the only way that you can understand the issues that are facing a community is to speak to the community. That’s quite obvious to us but perhaps lacking at the high levels of decision-making.
Again, with community consultation people in rural and regional areas often feeling left out or that there’s very minimal opportunity again for consultation. The only example of positive consultation that we had was for the new high capacity metro trains. They’re the new trains that will be coming onto the network soon or maybe has started to roll in now. That was apparently a good process and they took a lot of the feedback on board.
I think there was maybe one or two issues that are still not cleared up but for the most part, they made quite a few modifications to the train according to what people in the community said they needed. That was a positive but apart from that, we didn’t hear many – Kerri might have an example for this one.
“VLine set up a consultation for people with disabilities to give feedback about some new plans but when we arrived there were posters all over the walls with pictures of what it looked like. They had already decided what was going ahead and didn’t listen to anything we said. We had volunteered our time and some people had travelled a considerable distance to be there but they had no respect for us.”
I think I’ve spoken about this a little bit as we’ve gone through but just I think it’s really important to note the regional issues. The more remote you are basically the worse your transport is which might be okay if you can drive but if you can’t drive which is many people in our community, it’s a significant barrier. There are fewer options. If you have one bus for example that you can catch and it’s not accessible you don’t have a choice. There were many cases where there was only accessible buses for use between say 9.30 am and 2.30 pm because outside that it’s used for school transport.
There was a very heavy focus on getting to Melbourne was the feedback we got. This is how many services we have to Melbourne per day we’re working on our timetables we’re trying to improve that which is great but there were major issues with people trying to get to the next town or regional centre where they’re seeing friends, family, accessing services, going to the Doctor all the things we all need to do. They felt that should be the priority or a priority when discussing transport and that was something that was lacking.
Then the impacts which is really important and enormous and really hard to summarise for you so I’ve got some stats from our survey. 63.1% of individuals said they felt stressed or anxious while using transport, which I think, is a huge statistic. I think most able-bodied people get stressed maybe when they’re late for the train and when they’re rushing but in terms of getting on a tram and going to the next stop it should be nothing, it shouldn’t be an issue. It shouldn’t be making you stressed and anxious in my opinion.
67.24% of people said they miss out on doing things that they would like to do due to transport barriers. Some of the examples that we got were visiting friends, seeing family more often, being able to go to events, community events for example a child’s performance or a school lunch, just community consultations, important community events as well as employment and education opportunities. I think the impacts were far and wide. It was quite difficult to read through all the responses. You know what the issues are but reading them one after the other the impact is so enormous.
I think that was something we really focused on in our report because it is important for people to understand how crucial transport is for everyone including people with disabilities and how enormous the barriers are at the moment.
Just quickly our recommendations, sorry I’m taking up your time Kerri. We recommended that there be an accessibility audit of the Victorian public transport system. We need to know what’s accessible we need to know what’s compliant with the standards and what’s not compliant. As I mentioned before if we don’t know what’s compliant how can we assess the effectiveness of the transport standards?
We also recommended that there’s an enforcement of the standards. It’s currently unlawful to breach the standards but there’s no mechanism for enforcing that unless you as the individual want to go through the Human Rights Commission and take that to the Federal Court on your own time and your own cost, which is obviously not something anyone wants to do. Most people are not able to do. I don’t think we have the time or money. That’s an issue and also means even if you are successful it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be positive outcomes for the whole community it could just be for you and your compensation.
We need to be able to enforce the standards. Some people don’t understand why the standards are in place and they need to have some encouragement to abide by them even if they don’t care about them themselves.
We’ve suggested that there be a statewide feedback registry for public transport. This means that when you make a compliant it goes into a central registry. It will provide data for Public Transport Victoria and Transport for Victoria can understand where the priority areas are, what the issues are and it will also help again with the assessment of how accessible our transport system is on an ongoing basis as well.
We’ve suggested increasing community consultation in two different ways. One is when introducing new infrastructure or vehicles into the system. Obviously, you need to consult with the community to find out whether your services will be accessible but also more general consultation. We found that people said to us, I’ve never had such an opportunity to speak about the issues that we’re facing it’s always we’re talking about this one tram or talking about this one bus. But not having the chance to say from a holistic point of view this is what my issues are and this is how they affect me.
The next two are sort of related, staff training and public awareness. They both come into the idea that you shouldn’t face discrimination from the general public when using transport or ever and or staff members. I guess public awareness and staff training are sort of part of the same goal which is to reduce discrimination and barriers in that sense.
The timelines obviously we’re not going to be a hundred percent accessible by 2020. We’ve come up with the recommendation that timelines be reassessed with goals and standards for enforcing those goals as well along the way so they’re realistic and we can say in five years this is what our transport system will look like in ten years this is what it will look like. It’s realistic and people are held to account for those timelines.
Improving accessible information, which I sort of went through before but obviously always having audio and visual displays, accessible from wheelchair, accessible from standing and staff knowledge as well of accessibility so you can actually find out the information you need to find out. Then platform access we’ve suggested if a single elevator is the only accessible way to access a platform there should be a secondary independent means to get on and off the platform. Finally increasing priority seating because that was a major issue that came up for us.
Sorry for rushing in the end, I’m aware we’re running over time a little bit I will let Kerri finish off for us.
Thanks Katherine. Okay, final slide, where to from here? It was fine we’ve done a project we’re putting together a report to submit to the Victorian Government but what we don’t want is for it to sit on a shelf and for nothing to be done with it.
Having all these views and experiences of people living with a diverse range of disabilities it’s quite a sacred document and we really want to honour what people have shared. Whilst we are doing a report and doing a submission to the Transport Standards Review, we also want to conduct a campaign with some partners. At the moment, we will be identifying, for the next few months, who in the sector wants to work with us to actually make a difference in the area of public transport.
Thank you, thank you to Katherine she has been our transport project officer since October last year and has done an amazing job. I’m sure this is not the last time you’ve heard from the DRC on this topic. Thanks for your time.
MELISSA HALE, DARU COORDINATOR:
We’ve got time for maybe one or two questions before the next speaker, if anyone has any questions.
Okay, thank you very much Kerri and Katherine. I’d now like to introduce our next speaker. Colleen Furlanetto is the new Commissioner at the Taxi Service Commission and she will be giving us an overview or her role and her work with the Commission. Please welcome Colleen.
COLLEEN FURLANETTO, COMMISSIONER, TAXI SERVICE COMMISSION:
I’ll apologise in advance I tend to waffle. Felix has left the room he can contest to that. Firstly thank you for inviting me to be here today. It’s a great privilege and an honour to be in the role that I am. It’s a great privilege and an honour to hear from great people and we’re going to talk, awesome. I would also like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land in which we meet today and pay my respects to elders past present and future and any who may be here today.
I’ve left my card around and there’s some information on community transport. Sorry I didn’t have anything else glossy and shiny to bring but my contact details, please contact me at any time.
What I’m not I’m not an Ombudsman I’m a Commissioner. I’m independent of the Taxi Services Commission at the moment. While I’m a Commissioner, obviously, I have roles there but I’m independent and am able to speak my mind, which is good.
I think it’s important we understand who’s on the Commission. A lot of people say to me who is on there, what does it do. I will just allude to these three amazing people that I have the privilege to be a Commissioner with. I’m the new Commissioner, I don’t know how long you stay new for. Yehudi Blacher is well known throughout Local Government, University, just an all round very knowledgeable chap and he’s our Chair. Janet Dore Local Government, past CEO of TSC. Monique Conheady, again people I just sort of sit there and have to pop my mouth closed go it’s very interesting but then I hope I’m bringing something to the table which I do.
The focus of the Commissioners and the TSC or next week will be Commercial Passengers Vehicles Victoria, just to mix it up, is to ensure there’s an industry that is customer focused, safe, accessible and competitive. I’ve already talked a little bit about myself. Obviously, I’m a woman with lived experience. I can relate absolutely to nearly every point you’ve made about rural and regional.
I’m from a rural community. I was actually the Mayor of our Shire and at that particular time, I wasn’t able to drive due to my illness. 3,000 square kilometres one multi-purpose taxi and if I took that out of town, I knew someone else wasn’t getting the ride they needed to. There should be no guilt on anyone to use public transport but I felt it every time that I needed to use it to get to my nearest centre because there’s no other forms of transport. Let’s hope we’re moving into the future which will be more inclusive and that doesn’t just mean for metro and larger areas.
I really feel very strongly transport is a human rights issue it’s not a political issue. Having said that one has to work within a political system and work with people. I’ll talk to anybody and be anybody’s friend who I need to be. I do that with the upmost respect because having been a councillor and been on council for eight years I know it’s pretty hard on the other side. I just really wanted to make that really clear and passionately those who don’t know me, know that I don’t mind asking some hard questions from time to time. But I hope I’m always as respectful as I can be.
The State Government is investing $25 million to improve and expand the accessible point-to-point service in Victoria. A review of the subsidies, incentives for accessible point to point is also under way to provide the users with improved access and reliable transport. What does that mean? Well we don’t know yet.
I’ll move on, I’m really conscious of time. Our vision, a commercial passenger vehicle industry that is customer focused, safe, accessible and competitive. Should be able to deliver that no problem but I couldn’t agree more one part of a journey of someone using transport doesn’t start or begin with taxis or commercial passenger vehicle or end with a train or tram. It’s the footpath connection that gets you to where you’re going or the pick up from the door or the community transport that might be used. The whole machinations of private transport that might be part of that journey as well.
Everything is connected and I don’t think that transport like other very important issues, but transport in particular can be considered one mode in isolation because it just doesn’t work if you do that and there should be partnerships.
This is where I see a very positive stage that we enter. I think it’s worth just sharing this with you. Transport for Victoria structure has only recently gone through some change and I think it’s really important because I does bring theoretically all these transport options into one place really in a way.
You can read from there that if I could just share the Transport Victoria is a statutory office responsible for bringing Victoria’s sector and transport agencies together including the TSC or Commercial Passengers Vehicles Victoria next week, to build one integrated transport network to meet the needs of users and communities enabling simpler, quicker and safer journeys that connect places and support Victorians prosperity and liveability. How is it sounding so far – pretty impressive?
Take an integrated approach that seeks to understand the users’ needs while delivering on the highest return of investment for the community. Over time, provide a single source of real time information on how Victoria’s integrated transport networks are operating. That goes to the core of what we’ve just heard about, all the feedback that had been to the recent forums.
Transport Victoria coordinates Victoria’s growing transport system and plans for its future. This is a huge task. This isn’t something that the Government I don’t think just woke up one morning and thought this might be a good idea. With the authorities you can see listed there it just makes sense that there’s one overarching body that has one Minister overarching those areas and that we’re in one conversation I think is the ultimate goal certainly that I foresee anyway.
Just to add like any structure in any business part or organisation or service provider, the TSC or the Commercial Passengers Vehicles Victoria from next week, is like that. We have the Commissioner sitting there along with the Chief Executive Officer and all the Departments. I think it’s important I would like to say that it really surprised me how few people are actually employed in the TSC for them to do their core work that they do. That really surprised me. For what resource they have they do an amazing job as a regulator and I can say that because I’ve seen it inside.
What do we do, we regulate Victoria’s commercial passengers industry. What does that mean, implement Victorian Government reforms to the industry and we’re about to hit the GO button on that in big time. We accredit drivers, booking service providers and licenced vehicles. We administer the Multi-Purpose Taxi Program, which supports people with disability and senior Victorians.
I’ve just been down at a senior Victorians, doing the same talk, COTA down at Docklands, the library. Eventually found the room if you’ve ever been there it’s a bit of a journey. It was accessible it was awesome. We were talking about that the membership of the Multi-Purpose Taxi Program is mostly made up of seniors although the seniors use the least amount of the budget. It’s just an interesting thought there. Notwithstanding that, someone who is a senior can actually have a disability, the intersections between that.
The industry is changing. There is new legislation governing the industry and you all know that as the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Act of 2017. It’s a very good read if you’re up for it. It does mark a wonderful opportunity for us in the future because if you have an Act that states that things need to occur that makes it very difficult for it to be danced around.
Since new laws took effect and the reforms began, there has been greater interest and demand for driver accreditation vehicle licencing. It’s now easier to enter the industry and provide different services for consumers. There is now more choice to improve safety and consumer protections providing better outcomes for passengers, for drivers and the community.
As of July 1, that’s what we will look like slightly different. The Taxi Services Commission will be changing its name to the Commercial Passengers Vehicles Victoria. We’ve put a lot of thought into keeping it as simple as possible and describing what we actually are. Taxi Services Commission isn’t relevant now in a commercial vehicle playing field. Although the term taxi may still be used but now, Commercial Passenger Vehicles includes all vehicles that do commercial passenger vehicle ‘passengering’.
A new name new focus new powers. In addition to the new name, we will have a new focus on safety and new regulatory powers. We will continue to work in partnership with the industry to provider safer and fairer services for all. That’s not easy and we acknowledge that I acknowledge that. Fares are being deregulated and we will monitor these while drivers will be required to give passengers a fair estimate before the trip begins.
Commercial passenger vehicle providers will be able to brand their vehicles as they choose. I have had some colleagues and community particularly with intellectual disability say to me but that means taxis won’t be yellow anymore or how will I know, they will look different. They have to be identifiable and that’s still a discussion around what size the sticker needs to be where it will be placed, ride share which is uber and those sorts of things what they need to display. The important thing to remember is they are all now under one umbrella and all now have rules, regulations and legislation and that’s so so important.
Basically, I’ve just popped a bunch of graphs up there. The increase in commercial passenger vehicle licences has gone from September last year from 8,400 to over 45,000 in May. We’ve got a lot of licences, a lot of people saying they’re going to be a commercial passenger vehicle. Because it’s so cheap for that to happen how that translates into actual more vehicles is yet to be seen. I think we just keep an eye on that but as you can appreciate that’s gone from 8,000 to 45,000 that’s a lot more people that Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria has to keep an eye on.
The number of hire car licences has increased to 32,000 plus in September so that’s increasing. Increased in driver accreditation from 62,000 to 79,000 and within that is a mix of drivers that do taxis. There was initially a concern that wheelchair accessible taxi, WAT taxis would decrease. It’s actually found that’s been the opposite. We’ve seen an uptake. If we think about it 20% of us have a disability, not all a visual disability and not all require assistance and then 20% of the population is senior Victorians. I like to embellish that figure a bit and go that’s 40% of the State that really need to be having a really strong voice and a strong connection to safety, affordable, reliable transport.
There’s a few changes from July about replacing the vehicle with registration. Again, these are just words that play within the legislation around licencing accreditation and those things. The most exciting thing for me I think is the introduction of a safety duties framework and I think that those sort of things and being able to hold to account and there needing to be more reporting data while the Government has been very cognisant of not making the drivers experience onerous but I’m not going to apologise if we need to make it onerous. Any business you need to do your due diligence in what services you provide.
How will these be introduced – improved engagement with stakeholders and industry. Now I was appointed as the Disability Commissioner to the Taxi Services Commission to focus on accessibility issues. That is accessibility issues for anyone who requires any form of assistance whether it’s a small amount of assistance, whether it’s hearing loops, whether it’s signage, whether it’s priority seating, whether it’s the actual wheelchair, scooters, whatever, it’s my job to be making sure I’m connecting with as many people as I can that’s including the industry as well to have a discussion so we’re all on the same page. We’re aiming for this human rights about the best that it can be.
I’m not there as a Commissioner and it’s not my role anyway to be getting out the big stick approach. We need the partnership approach. It’s a growth industry. Disability and aged or senior transport is a growth industry. People are noting that. We already see within the commercial passenger vehicle now we have Shebah, we have ubers that cater for certain demographics in our community and people with a disability and seniors or people requiring some form of assistance should be no different from their front door to wherever they need to go whether it’s a long trip, short trip any trip it’s their right to have it in the best possible way they can.
There is a lot I want to share with you, sorry reading notes as well it’s the old brain drain. Accessibility related activities include the point-to-point review. This has still not been, as a regulator, as Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria this is still with the Minister and the Government at the moment. This review started I believe 2015. There’s lots of potential recommendations that can come from that but one can’t sort of start planning for that really until we know what that review is going to encompass.
It could potentially mean that there will be expanding of the MPTP Program beyond taxis. That might mean community transport. A bus that’s sitting in a local hospital service they may be able to go bang bang with a MPTP card so they’re actually starting to cover some of that cost of that service of a bus that’s not getting used or a vehicle that’s not getting used.
We often hear of people in rural communities who can’t afford the taxi to get to Peter Mac for an appointment and they use community transport. The Local Government and the ratepayers are really subsidising that to the hilt. There should be ways around that we can make sure we all contribute to make sure everybody has access and equity. It could mean the expansion.
The NDIS that’s a very tricky area. I could spend all day talking about that but needless to say, it connects with transport for those who are fortunate enough to be able to qualify for the NDIS and or if it is going to realistically meet their needs in the first place. The State Disability Plan, so with my VDAC hat on just for a moment as I’m privileged to be the Chair of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council, Minister Foley’s advisory council, it’s quite nice to be able to talk to two Ministers and share the message.
The Disability Plan, there is four pillars and basically it’s around inclusive communities meaning I feel included. It’s a human right really, whose going to mess around with that? Health, housing and safety, I live well. It’s just a no brainer. Fairness and safety, I get a fair go. Contributing lives, I can contribute. I just put a dot point five there as I’ve developed a strong connection and partnership with the Seniors Victorian Commissioner partly due to the need that we need to be on the same page in regards to the MPTP Program and for his work that is his day to day job of representing senior Victorians.
Travel and transport tips are available as well and working in conjunction with whoever want to partner and listen to me, talk and we can work out a way to have a voice together. We need those stories nothing is more effective than a story.
The MPTP Program just to give you some quick stats, the MPTP Program is the Multi-Purpose Taxi Program. Will that continue, will it be different, will it expand, will the caps be higher, will it be different for a rural remote area, more than 50%, no cap or how much of a cap – all of those things have been considered. When we look at the real data for the MPTP Program, there are many people that go over and above what is meant to be their cap. The TSC at the moment the access team who do an amazing job they’re like well we can’t stop this person getting from where they need to go, we’re not going to say you’ve got to your cap.
But there does come a time particularly with the NDIS that the State Government contributes to a Commonwealth program putting in our taxpayer dollar, which is meant to include the transport for people who qualify in the NDIS. Those people are still using the MPTP Program as well. Why – it’s because the NDIS isn’t working that effectively and the Taxi Services Commissioner prior to my arrival made the decision they would not cancel anybody’s MPTP card along with the Minister Allan who is very very passionate about it and no political persuasion here but the current Government was very very committed to go we’re not leaving anybody on the side of the road till we can sort this out.
There does come a time when you get several years down the track and you just can’t continue especially as we approach full roll out to have effectively the taxpayers of Victoria paying twice for one service. We need to be very mindful that that’s a legislative and a bit mindful when you have State and Federal Government and Local Government to mention more involved in the process. The thing is we’re one community. I’m one member of that community and I really don’t give a rats where the money comes from. If it’s my right, work it out find a way around that. That’s my job is making sure those who can’t advocate for it then I’m at the table hopefully getting that message across.
The MPTP Program has 220,000 members. At the moment, it’s just under 100,000 active members. Now what that means is I was an active member when I was taking those taxis out of town but I’m privileged and I’m blessed that I’m now able to drive and I live a very privileged life and I can get in my car and get to where I want to when I want to. Mind you, driving in the city is a bit scary but I’ve got used to that. I was used to kangaroos.
I think a lot of people don’t realise how much and how many people are connected to that program. On average there are more than 20,000 applications received each year. There were five million MPTP trips taken last year and a million of those were wheelchair trips. What was most astounding to me was that the MPTP budget was $70 million. Now I don’t know, to anybody that’s a lot of money. I think for what the program does is an amazing job. What will change with the NDIS when some of those people drop off, will it be that it’s 105,000 Victorians who would’ve been on the MPTP Program, well we don’t know because they may not get a package so therefore we hope that the program will continue. That’s dependant on the State to decide what the future will be indeed but I can’t see that changing much.
We do have to think about our future. Very briefly, to touch on the lifting fees, I get asked about these a lot. Wheelchair and scooter users I just want to put a call out and I can say this because I’m a wheelie, there are some wheelchairs and scooters out there that my gosh you could make a cappuccino with them, they’ve got everything connected and are pretty amazing. But we need to remember when we’re getting in and around about in our community we need to be able to be acknowledged that if we’ve got all our shopping that’s the only way we can carry it but we need to be thinking of everything else hanging off our chairs and the size.
This is where the future of passenger vehicles need to think about the increase size in the scooters, the increased weight in the scooters and the passenger. These are all things that contribute to quality service if we’re aware of what the service is required. That’s a two-way streak where we need to be making sure we’re connected about what’s relevant technologies that are there today.
So it is covered under your MPTP membership. This is not a lifting fee that’s comes out of your part of your MPTP that you pay. The meter does not run while the chair is being lifted or the scooter. If it is, we need to know about it. The community are our eyes. We need to be reporting things that aren’t done correctly and this can be done confidentially but nothing will change if we don’t address if there are systemic issues out there unless we do report things. I do like to do a little bit of secret shopper myself and it’s very interesting.
Currently our wheelchair fee is for accessible taxis $20.00 and for a partial lifting fee which I’m trying to get some stats on as to how much that’s actually used but that’s for those wheelchairs that fold up into a dime and can get popped in the back of a boot of a car even if there is a gas cylinder in the boot and all those sort of things. I’m not too sure how often that is used but it’s pretty good.
I’m hoping I haven’t lost something, which I wanted to read out. What I will do I will share it. It’s just a bit of a saying that is really relevant for the communities that we work in and it’s about nobody somebody anybody and nobody. I don’t know if anybody has ever heard it. It’s basically if we look for someone else to do something or someone else to speak up about something well it possibly won’t happen so we all need to do our own bit.
I’ll stop now and thank you very much.
Thank you very much Colleen, we’ve got a few minutes for questions. Can you please raise your hand if you have a question?
QUESTION – LORETTA ROBERTS, CORS:
I’m Loretta Roberts, from CORS in Colac so we fit into that regional area. The $10.00 lifting for conventional taxis for out of suburban urban and country zones, who monitors that $10.00 fee?
Well let’s just say that we know that even MPTP cards can be used in that side of the State and maybe that side of the town and all these things. The data is a wonderful thing and the cross matching of those things. Again, there is our really highly skilled investigators that go out there and compliance officers that go out and do those sorts of things.
Again, can I employ you that if anybody contacts me I’m not the Ombudsman I’m not there to fix an issue but if people are concerned about their privacy or you want to ask a question, is this something I can report or I’m hearing this happening anecdotally please contact us. We need to know about it.
Attitudes won’t change unless they’re made to change. There will always be fraud there will always be people who will want to try and push the envelope. One thing is for sure, as technology changes so does the ability to catch up people. Thank you for the question, it’s a really valid point and it’s something that the Commission are very mindful of and have a small team but a very very affective team.
Again, it’s not about the big stick approach either. Certainly, with a lot of change it’s about counselling the person and saying really this is not on and that’s their job to do not mine. People please contact me and I’ll make sure your information if you want it to be confidential that I pass it on as my own but we need to hear these things we need them reported. As soon as possible, we need them reported not like two years later. It’s really important. Thank you.
QUESTION – PHILIP WATERS, DHHS:
Hi everybody, my name is Philip Waters and I’m from DHHS. I’m just wondering about the future in regards to technological changes and so forth. In the future with driverless cars for example, I’m just wondering have you considered that particularly the implications in regards to say driverless vehicles for people with disabilities and other community members, what’s your comments on that?
Well it’s really timely because in my role in VDAC a few of us went to Vic Roads and wanted to talk to them about their Disability Action Plan and what were they doing. We have a particular member on council who is particularly interested in autonomous vehicles and he is a visually impaired gentleman.
We went and had this great chat and they said we’re developing this autonomous project and it’s going to be around a bus service around Latrobe Uni at Bundoora. We were like oh, fantastic we would really like to know more about that when it’s appropriate. They said it’s all up and going we would really love you to come out here is the day here is the time but it’s not wheelchair accessible.
Offcourse my vision-impaired colleague thought that was hilarious that he would be able to go on an autonomous bus and I couldn’t. But absolutely as a society we are entering, I bought a new car last week and it’s got lane departure alerts, it’s got all these things that my poor old machine that I’d had for a very long time has not done. It’s a bit scary as to what technology is in the vehicles now. This also puts us in the point of people with disabilities or senior Victorians or people with acquired brain injury or anyone, that technology can be very scary space to tread.
I can bring this back to there’s just currently been a project on because if the MPTP Program is going to be introduced to other vehicles, do they all need to have the same meters and the same cab charge system that is there now, is there technologies that we have now that could be done differently. There’s been a proof of concept done and it’s gone through a trial phase and it’s proving very popular.
It’s about using smart phone technology obviously and other technologies but we need to remember that not everybody has a technological device. Even if people do have a technological device, there is still room for fraud to be connected with that along with we’re thinking about the new trams and the new stations and the platforms we’ve spoken about.
Autonomous vehicles I think definitely are closer than probably some of us are more comfortable to imagine. We looked to other countries and they’re doing some pretty amazing things. How that’s going to affect people with disability, it is absolutely at the forefront of the industry’s mind that we need to make sure that people with a disability are 20% of the population and senior Victorians. So we’re 40%, we need to be considered in any technology advancement and any things that we’re going to be doing differently.
Absolutely as we enter, the new era of the Jetson’s who knows, we could be back here in 20 years and a very different life. Thank you.
I think there was a lady at the back wanted to ask a question.
You were saying before the lifting fee the full lifting fee can be $20.00. What was the partial fee just out of interest?
The partial fee is $10.00.
Hi, Colleen. A question I have is around the fair estimate at the start of the journey. I know some of our members have concerns about people being ripped off if they have various disabilities particularly in, I’m thinking more of ride share, particularly in those high demand times.
Absolutely, and I’m sorry I should’ve mentioned that. Just to make life simpler, not in my opinion but there will be booked and not booked services. Booked services is something that I would highly recommend people with the MPTP Program or people with disability or senior Victorians actually book their service. They know what they’re going to be charged and they also know where picking up, it’s by choice and all of those things. A lot more choice and control.
Having choice and control should also be in my opinion that the rank and hale of the unbooked services, if I want to go Mr Taxi come pick me up I should be able to do that if I wanted to. Anybody should be able to but in the unbooked case of taxi rank work or hale in the street that’s considered unbooked. The Essential Services Commission has and is continuing to do work on there being an agreed highest level that the unbooks can charge and that will be enforced.
There is some comfort there but there will be room for movement. My recommendation is for people using certainly the program to use booked services not unbooked. As we enter into the new phase trust me there will be a lot of scrutineering around that and supervision and a few people being out at 2 o’clock in the morning checking what people are doing. Thank you that’s a very relevant question, sorry I didn’t mention it.
Thank you very much Colleen. Again, a reminder all this information will be available on our website later as well as Colleen has left some of her cards at the front. If you want to contact her and ask questions later you can.
We will take a break now and come back and 2:30 pm for the next session, thank you.Download Taxi Commissioner's PowerPoint presentationDownload Transport Accessibility Project PowerPoint presentation
- Kerrie Cassidy and Katherine Marshall
- Disability Resource Centre (DRC)
- Date published:
- Thu 28th Jun, 2018