Wheel-Trans: follow up

If you read my previous Wheel-Trans article you will know just how user un-friendly they can be. That was when I was trying to make arrangements for booking trips.

Only my 91 year old mother qualified for Wheel-Trans. My father did not. I guess because he was able to get to the appointment proved he didn’t need it!

That was several months ago and this past month, after my dad developed some trouble with his right leg, I arranged for him to re-apply for Wheel-Trans.

So first you have to book an appointment at one of their five Toronto locations. Of course you cannot do this on the Internet but instead have to wait on the phone for 23 minutes to get through and book it. I did so and last Wednesday I took the half day off work necessary to take my father to their offices. Yes, the applicant has to show up in person. Unlike a handicap parking permit which can be completed by a physician, to qualify for Wheel-Trans you have to show up in person to prove that you are too disabled to be able to travel on TTC without special aid. Yep, Catch 22 all over again!

Of course, I checked carefully with the TTC office to ensure that I was going to 5120 Yonge St for the appointment.

At 12:30 I race out of my office with my car to get to my father’s place and then to the Wheel-Trans office in time. Not too much traffic that day and I arrive at about 1:10 pm. We are driving along Yonge St when my father points out the building and says ‘wait that’s where the office is, that’s where I took Mom 3 months ago’. I take a look and the street number is in the high 4000’s not 5120. I figure well, Dad is 91 and he is just wrong. I tell him, patronizingly, I ‘Dad, it isn’t 5120 so you just remember wrong’. He insists he is right but he obviously can’t be because it isn’t 5120 Yonge St.

I continue along Yonge St to 5100 and the next building is 5150….hmmm… Ok. I park the car and we’ll just find it on foot. I am incredibly lucky to get a spot right outside 5100. Now, 5100 is the North York Civic Centre or something so it is set back from the street behind a square. One has to navigate a number of stairs (up and down), a small square and up more stairs.

We start walking. We reach the entrance to 5100 and I figure the next building north must be 5120. I’m wrong. It is 5150 (as I had seen from the street). I stop several people. No one has heard of 5120. We go inside. No one has heard of the Wheel-Trans office.

My Dad tells me that it is the wrong building and we should go to the one that my mother went to. I have no idea what to do.

I call Wheel-Trans. We are now at almost 1:30, our appointment time and by Dad is getting anxious. So am I. I am on hold for 25 minutes for Wheel-Trans. In the meantime I ask my father if he is up to getting back to the car and we’ll try the office he went to last time. My father usually isn’t wrong about this kind of thing.

So, while on hold with Wheel-Trans, we struggle back to the car and drive to the other building. As we get there the Wheel-Trans person picks up. I ask where the registration office to sign up for Wheel-Ttrans is. She tells me that I have called the booking line and she has no idea. I tell her that I have called the number listed for General Information and that we are past our appointment and that I have been on hold for 25 minutes and that surely she must be able to find the address of their own office! Gruffly she asks me to hold.

When she returns she tells me the office is 5120. I say ‘there is no 5120. I was just there and there isn’t a 5120!’. She doesn’t know what to say. I make a U-turn and return to 5100 Yonge St.

We traverse the Civic Centre and enter the library. I speak to a security guard at the entrance to the library. ‘Yes, he says, the Wheel-Trans office is upstairs’. I tell him there aren’t any signs or anything. He tells me that if I take the elevator one floor up I will see the signs.

Up we go and opposite the elevator is a sign about the size of a ‘wet paint’ sign taped to a pillar that says ‘Wheel-Trans’. We go into a room that is obviously a temporary make-shift ‘office’ with two folding tables and two women sitting there, one behind each table. The office is otherwise completely bare and empty. It is obviously temporary space.

We go to the first table and sit down opposite one of the women. The first question I ask her  is whether this is a new location, were they a couple of block south several months ago. She answers ‘yes we were. We find space wherever we can’.

My Dad smiles. I smile. He was right. I should not have doubted him.

She interviews my father following a perfunctory and typical bureaucratic registration form. When finished my father asks if he qualifies for Wheel-Trans. She replies that he will receive a response by mail in about two weeks.

Frankly, after all the walking my father did to get to that interview room, I’m not sure he will qualify. And, perhaps that is the point. The TTC figures ‘if you can find our office and get to it, then you don’t qualify’.

This is the best a major public utility like Wheel-Trans can do for the disabled and seniors? Confuse them and make them jump through hoops to find a temporary crappy little office in a makeshift room in order to qualify for a service predicated on the fact that they are immobile. What a shame on them.

But one thing leaves me feeling good. My father is certainly a resilient and reliable person. More than I can say for Wheel-Trans.

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3 Comments to “Wheel-Trans: follow up”

  1. You might want to count your blessings…I am a Wheel Trans customer, and I can tell you that waiting on the phone is the norm with them [don’t know why] and you may or may not get to your destination on time. Last time I used it, the pick-up ride came 1 hour late to take me to my destination and then I waited another 1 hour for my ride home – and got soaked in the rain to boot! I don’t like to take the minivans because half of the time, the drivers are in a very bad mood and some drive dangerously as well as ignore basic safety procedures. I recommend saying you’ll only take the buses. Those drivers are safety minded.

    There are a lot of good rides too – but I am still robust enough to withstand the ‘bad’ experiences, I would shudder to think about how a more frail or very senior customer fares!

    I am thankful that the system is there for me – but it does come to the point where you have to decide if you want to spend all your time complaining or just deal with the system as it is. I wish they would sort out things better to be more efficient so that the system will be there for the long term.

    Best of luck –

    • I agree with you. Most of the people working there are trying to do a good job. The service is invaluable for those who have no alternative means of getting around.
      Having said that, though, it appears that the TTC treats Wheel-Trans as a poor cousin. They don’t give it the resources necessary to provide the service. I know all facets of the TTC are under financial strain but I can’t help think that a little bit of organizational skill would go a long way.
      I mean the fiasco of finding their office to register for the service is shameful… giving out an address that no one can find in a building that doesn’t even know they exist.
      Asking seniors and the disabled to have to travel long distances and enter non accessible areas to register. Then keeping users on the phone forever to book. I can’t help but think some of that is not funding.
      But if we want proper social services we all have to chip in and pay. I am happy to go on record to increase taxes so those more vulnerable don’t have to go through this kind of crap to receive service.

  2. I’m glad I read this. I have an appointment for an interview for temporary after surgery service. They told me its where the library is on Yonge St. So I figured it was the 5150 Yonge St. building because that’s where the library is. I got a call this morning telling me to make sure I go in to 5120 Yonge St. and enter off Beecroft. So….after reading here about the problems finding the place I decided to drive by…and sure enough there is no 5120 Yonge. I found Beecroft but didn’t see an entrance. I guess I’ll leave several hours early and hope for the best. LOL

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