Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Belleville council approves transit accessibility plan

Belleville City Hall. – Photo by Hollie Pratt-Campbell/Quinteist

The City of Belleville Council unanimously approved the 2023 to 2027 Belleville Transit Multi-Year Accessibility Plan (TMAP) during a regular council meeting on Jan. 8; the plan is intended to enhance accessibility for the city’s public transit system.

Nicole Yantzi, the City of Belleville’s accessibility coordinator, provided Council with the plan, which aligns with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). The focus is to create inclusive environments where all people can easily access and benefit from public transit services.

City of Belleville Ward 1 Councillor Barbara Enright Miller expressed her gratitude for the work that has been put into the plan by staff and members of the public and outlined how the implementation of the plan will make a difference in the Friendly City.

“This plan sets goals to address barriers in the transit system. Accessible public transit is essential for people with disabilities to access employment, community services, leisure and recreation,” Coun. Miller said.

Four key objectives are outlined in the TMAP plan: driver training, conventional transit, specialized transit, and accessible taxis. Council deliberated on the benefits of an accessible transit system in the city, adding that removing barriers and implementing necessary improvements would ensure the city fulfills the requirements of AODA transportation standards.

“Public transit is an important part of the transportation standard,” Coun. Miller said, noting that it “sets accessibility standards in key areas for all citizens to have equal opportunity to use spaces without barriers and have access to goods and services freely with full inclusion.”

The development of the plan was extensive. Key stakeholders, including transit supervisors, advisory committees, and the public, were heavily involved in the plan’s development. Considering varying insights and impacts was a vital step in creating the TMAP plan.

Councillor Kathryn Ann Brown is chair of the Transit Advisory Committee. She emphasized the importance of considering diverse supports beyond accessible vehicles, such as service levels, pedestrian connections, transit stops, signage, policies, and customer service. Coun. Brown stated that doing so would “truly” create an accessible transit system in Belleville.

This TMAP outlines the framework for the project, with the intention of adapting to ongoing progress, changes, community needs, and council directives. Annual status reports will be compiled and shared with Council, tracking achievements and allowing for adjustments. These reports are intended to ensure the City remains well-informed on accessibility goals for the transit system.

“This TMAP, which we are seeking approval on today, is a living document and will help guide our municipality along the path to remove transparent errors and improve accessibility in the city,” Coun. Miller said.

The plan includes a variety of individual action items that could have financial implications. Those action items are to be presented to Council during its regular budget processes and meetings for consideration.

Several members of Council and staff expressed how this plan reaffirms the City’s commitment to fostering inclusive and accessible spaces—and in particular, for the City’s public transit system.

The full TMAP can be found here.

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