Winnipeg pilot project for wheelchair-accessible vehicles exceeds expectations

Two years after launching a pilot program, the City of Winnipeg says wait times are down for users of wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAV).

Officials said Wednesday that a total of 13,213 trips were given through the city’s WAV program in 2023 — representing triple the previous year — and that number is expected to increase by 50 per cent again in 2024.

“Winnipeg WAV has been a great success story for our city, showcasing how innovation and dedication to customer service can transform lives,” Mayor Scott Gillingham said in a statement.

“Not only have we improved mobility options for residents, but we have provided essential backup capacity for our Transit Plus service, and supported local entrepreneurs in the vehicle-for-hire industry.”

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According to city numbers, 93 per cent of WAV passengers in 2023 were either picked up early or had to wait less than 20 minutes, which led to overwhelmingly positive user reviews.

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The program uses a centralized service for booking vehicles, which works with multiple taxi companies and prioritizes the nearest available WAVs for the quickest service.

Duffy’s Taxi general manager Ram Valluru, who also serves as Winnipeg WAV project manager, said the program uses a state-of-the-art dispatch centre, which has led to the large-scale improvements in speed and service.

“The original projections for the city were for 10,000 trips to be dispatched annually. Now in the second year, we are on track for over 20,000 trips annually,” Valluru said.

“We are seeing on-time performance that is comparable to standard taxis. Most importantly, we’re seeing very high customer appreciation from users of this service.”

The city said the pilot project offers financial incentives, as well as training, to drivers of accessible taxis and other vehicles, and recommendations are expected to be brought forward to city council later this year to make it a permanent program in Winnipeg.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba government announces new funding for wheelchair program'

Manitoba government announces new funding for wheelchair program

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