(Advocate file photo).

Coquitlam mayor calls for more accessible taxis after woman waits three hours

COQUITLAM, B.C. — A B.C. mayor is calling for more accessible taxis after a woman in a wheelchair was forced to wait three hours out in the cold and rain on Canada Day.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said he waited with the senior, who had reserved an accessible taxi that never showed up and they made multiple calls to the dispatcher.

He said she and her companion, who was shivering “aggressively,” were examined by paramedics as they waited.

Bel-Air Taxi could not be reached for comment.

Stewart said 15 per cent of the taxi fleet in Coquitlam must be accessible and whenever a taxi company has applied to expand its fleet, the city has requested that it include more accessible vehicles, too.

Stewart is calling on the passenger transportation board, which regulates the taxi industry in B.C., to enforce its requirements that passengers who need accessible vehicles get priority service.

“We need some enforcement of the existing requirement that taxis place a high priority on persons with wheelchairs,” Stewart said. “I can get a ride home with someone else, but I was unable to offer this woman a ride home.”

The number of accessible taxis approved in the province increased 51 per cent between 2012 and 2017, the board says on its website.

“Operators may use wheelchair accessible taxis to serve any passenger however, priority must be given to persons with wheelchairs or other mobility devices,” it says.

The provincial government said there are 454 wheelchair accessible taxis, representing 16 per cent of the total fleet in B.C. The majority, 371, operate within Metro Vancouver.

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