New Taxi Subsidization Program made available to seniors and mobility challenged residents

Some residents of Sylvan Lake who face mobility challenges will soon have access to a new Taxi Supplement Program.

Low income adults and seniors, as well as physically and mentally disabled residents of Sylvan Lake who face mobility challenges will soon have access to a new Taxi Supplement Program following a decision made Monday evening at Town Council.

During the development of the Town of Sylvan Lake’s Social Master Plan specialized transportation needs were identified as a high priority. The Town contracted Nichols Applied Management to conduct a feasibility study in order to examine the needs and solutions available.

The recommendation of the Specialized Transportation Feasibility Study for the short-term is to develop a taxi supplement program for Sylvan Lake low-income older adults & seniors and adult residents with physical and mental disabilities with mobility challenges.

The Feasibility Study was conducted with the assistance of a working committee comprised of representatives from seniors groups, health care, the Town and an industry rep from the taxi industry.

Subsidized taxi cards will be dispensed from the Family & Community Centre through FCSS. Implementation of the Taxi Supplement Program would require an assessment to be done by Sylvan Lake Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) intake staff to determine eligibility. Individuals 65 years of age and older or adults with physical and/or mental challenges with a total household income of $26,965 for single; $43,785 for couple (based on Provincial Seniors Benefits income Threshold 2016-2017) will be eligible for the supplement program.

The maximum subsidy will not exceed $120 per month per household. The amount of subsidy availability is subject to change for each participant based on taxi usage, with a reassessment taking place every six months to ensure that funding for this program reaches as many clients as possible. Councillor Chris Lust questioned Town staff during Monday night’s regular Meeting of Council, as per how the $120 a month allowance had been calculated.

Director of Sylvan Lake FCSS, Kelly Smith, stated staff looked at the average costs of taxi cabs in Sylvan Lake.

“If it’s $15 per trip in Sylvan Lake on average, how many trips per week would that be and per month,” explained Smith. “We wanted to reach as many people as we could based on the budget we had. We haven’t done this program yet so we’re not sure exactly how it’s going to look. We thought $120 would be a good start and see where it goes from there.”

Director of Community Services, Ron Lebseck, stated during the Specialized Transportation Feasibility Study, Nichols Applied Management determined there were around 40-50 users in Sylvan Lake who would utilize the program at this time.

“We took the budget and divided it by that number of people and that’s how we ended up at $120,” said Lebseck.

Taxi boundary limits are as follows: within Town of Sylvan Lake; Summer Villages of Birchcliff, Jarvis Bay, Norglenwold, Sunbreaker Cove, Half Moon Bay, City of Red Deer and Red Deer County’s Gasoline Alley.

This program is open to all licensed taxi cab companies running in Sylvan Lake who follow the program criteria.

Taxi companies must provide a weekly taxi card user financial update to Town of Sylvan Lake Family Community Support Services program support staff to help ensure that participants do not to exceed their monthly allotment. Taxi companies must be willing to accommodate subsidy cards at their initial expense with reimbursement to follow two times per month.

The Subsidized Taxi Card Program will provide support for approximately 45-50 people upon full intake of the program.

Councillor Megan Hanson stated she felt this is a step in the right direction to help residents with mobility issues until the Town is able to find a more permanent solution.

“The real benefit I see is that, one it will help people in the mean time,” said Councillor Hanson. “This is the first system we’ve had in place to get us some real tracking information. I think this will be really helpful.”

The Town hopes to use the information gathered from the Taxi Subsidization Program to develop further specialized transportation initiatives.