Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for June 29th, 2007

Breach of blind man’s rights spurs $8M transit PA system

with 4 comments

Jake Rupert, The Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 29, 2007 in the Ottawa Citizen

After a finding that OC Transpo drivers not calling out bus stops breached a blind man’s human rights, transit officials are instructing drivers to do so and are seeking $8 million to install automated announcement systems.

“The technology required to automatically announce stops will be phased in over three years, beginning in 2008,” says report from city transit staff on the issue. “In the interim, we will maintain vigilance in fostering good customer service by announcing major stops when possible.”

The report, which will be tabled at the city’s transit committee next week, comes in response to a ruling by the Canadian Transportation Agency in April.

Another one of those “quality of service” issues – and because it touches on the case of a person with disabilities something is being done about it – in Ottawa. But the practice of calling out stops matters to many people, not necessarily those who may have recognised disabilities. If you are travelling in the evening, or when it is raining and the bus windows are all steamed up, or you are in an unfamiliar part of town, getting the driver to let you know when your stop is coming up can be very important. Of course, that means the driver has to remember which stops have been asked for. The #98 B Line did have an automatic annunciator but that died with the rest of the GPS system. (In London the drivers call the automated voice “Sonia” – because she “getsonianerves”)

So far as I am aware it is pretty hit and miss here – but this should set a precedent and other transit systems ought to sit up and take notice. But I would bet that because our provincial human rights watchdog is now almost totally useless that Translink will try to duck this one.

But they shouldn’t. And they have to realise that making the system work better for people with disabilities makes it better for everyone. Yes there are trade offs. You loose some seats with a low floor bus and some time at stops when someone in a wheelchair gets on and off. But you make that up in much faster loading and unloading for everyone else, and people with heavy bags and strollers thank you too.

Besides, the days when we treated some groups of people in ways that separated them from the rest of society should by now be long over. Equal access for all should not still be a campaigning slogan but a universally accepted principle. It is to the shame of the transit system here – and in Ottawa – that it is not yet.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 29, 2007 at 3:32 pm

Posted in disability, transit

White Spot Boycott Called by FVCC

with 3 comments

Taking Farmland Off the Menu

WHITE SPOT BOYCOTTED

Delta, Friday June 29, 2007

The Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition (“FVCC”) today called on agricultural protection advocates, consumers, wildlife conservationists and environmentalists to boycott White Spot Restaurant until its parent company stops trying to remove farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve (“ALR”) for development.

The boycott follows a public information meeting in Delta on Wednesday, June 27th, where Ron Toigo, Owner of White Spot’s parent company, Shato Holdings Ltd. and Vice President of White Spot Restaurants, told hundreds of people that if his current proposal to remove 27 acres of Delta farmland from the ALR for an upscale residential/commercial development does not succeed, he will apply to remove other of his company’s farmland from the protection of the ALR. One of the parcels of land identified for subsequent exclusion application is a 10.6 acre parcel of Class 1 prime agricultural soil, currently being farmed.

“This kind of coercive attack on farmland must not be tolerated,” declared Donna Passmore, agricultural campaigner with FVCC. “We are alarmed that the parent company of one of BC’s oldest and largest food service organizations is not more sensitive to the need to protect farmland. This is a very wealthy and well-connected corporation, but in this instance consumers have the ultimate power.”

Prior to the boycott call, FVCC provided Toigo with an electronic copy of the Campbell government’s British Columbia’s Food Self Reliance Report, which concludes that within the next 15 years the province will require 240,000 more acres of irrigated farmland than it currently has in order to meet the needs of our population.

Because the area has very high wildlife values, FVCC also advised him of the findings of Rich Wildlife Poor Protection, a report recently jointly issued by the David Suzuki Foundation and Sierra Legal Defence Fund that paints a grim picture about the state of BC’s wildlife, including that 17% of BC’s wildfowl population is in peril from lack of protection. FVCC points to Delta’s visiting Snow Geese as a classic example of the report’s findings.

In the spring of 2007, the Canadian Wildlife Service issued hunting permits to kill tens of thousands of Snow Geese, because loss of habitat meant that this region is no longer able to support their population. Between late February and early April, Snow Geese stop to feed in the salt water marshes and adjacent farmlands of Boundary Bay, and Delta is one of their primary stopovers. The annual return of the Snow Geese is a much-loved harbinger of spring to the people of the region and their dire circumstances are a poignant reminder that our foodlands are as important to other species as to humans.

The boycott extends to food services on BC ferries, which are operated by White Spot Restaurants.

“We are asking people to brown-bag-it and dine el fresco when traveling by ferry this summer,” adds Passmore.

FVCC indicates that the boycott will be in place until Shato Holdings cancels all applications to remove farmland from the ALR.

Rotating protests outside White Spot venues around the province will begin in mid-July.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 29, 2007 at 9:33 am