17 June 2022
A new ACT Audit Office report into the ACT Governments ACT taxi subsidy scheme and a new draft ACT Planning Bill 2022 have highlighted the need to ensure people with disabilities enjoy improved access to transport, spaces and places in Canberra.
According to AFI Head of Policy Craig Wallace ‘the taxi subsidy scheme provides a financial lifeline to Canberrans who have a disability or a significant mobility restriction which prevents them from using public and community transport and require a taxi in order to get to the shops, medical appointments, employment or meet with friends.
‘A report by the ACT Auditor General released earlier this week found that the scheme was underutilised and that the subsidy scheme and that subsidy caps had not kept pace with the flagfall rate and standard taxi fare rate in the territory.
‘The scheme has also not kept pace with changes like rising flagfalls, the opening up of new suburbs and longer trips due to congestion. Between 2002 and 2021, flagfall increased by 56.3% and the fare per km rose by 46.2%. But during that time the 50% subsidy cap has only increased by 41.2% ($17 to $24) and the 75% cap has increased by 42.3 per cent ($26 to $37).
‘It is now impossible for a scheme member to be transported from one side of Canberra to the other within the subsidy – a trip from Gungahlin to The Canberra Hospital is around $65 which would leave a user almost $30 out of pocket.
‘Taxis are an incredibly expensive mode of transport and yet some people with disability, such as people who are blind, are totally reliant on them to get around. The declining subsidy has lead to the scheme being underutilised – this may mean people are avoiding travel and missing out on essential trips needed to manage their health, stay in employment or remain connected.
‘AFI agrees reform is needed for the Scheme and we advocate for the subsidy cab to be lifted, set independently and linked to price increases in taxi’s and for the trip limit to be removed. We also call for adequate investment in community transport and accelerated work to improved accessibility of buses’, Mr Wallace concluded.
This week also saw the Government close consultations on its draft Planning Bill 2022. In our submission on the review AFI called for accessibility considerations in planning to be a mandatory consideration in the Governments new liveability principles and for the planning system to promote housing accessibility and affordability.
According to AFI CEO Nicolas Lawler “the new system we get from this once in a generation planning review and reform effort should meet the communities expectations for accessible housing, urban infrastructure and community facilities for a growing population of older people and people with disabilities in the ACT. The ACT was an early adopter in the National Disability Insurance Scheme and we should also recognise we have more to do to ensure public spaces and transport step up for accessibility.
‘Around 1 in 5 Canberrans has a disability while Canberra has an ageing population. According to the ABS in 2018 19.4% of those in the ACT had disability, up from 16.2% in 2015.
‘We need accessible transport, appropriate concessions and subsidies and a rolling program of stocktake, audits and accessibility improvements to spaces, places, community facilities and urban infrastructure. Social planning is required to make that happen and our Budget submission calls for investments to this end’, Mr Lawler concluded.
Media contacts: Nicolas Lawler CEO on 0439 431 814 or Craig Wallace on 0477 200 755