The one major reform needed to improve Access Taxis

The working life of access cabs has been extended but people living with disabilities say there’s one major move needed to dramatically improve the service.

Mar 04, 2024, updated Mar 04, 2024
The State Government has announced a two year increase to the life span of access taxis. Photo supplied.

The State Government has announced a two year increase to the life span of access taxis. Photo supplied.

Access taxis were previously able to operate for 10 years after a change in July 2022, and now have a working life of 12 years before they have to be retired.

Policy and projects manager at social profit organisation Purple Orange Belle Owen said the extended life of access taxis would only make a difference if there was also a commitment to getting more of the vehicles on the roads.

“Having them on the road for longer is an incentive for the drivers that are currently driving to stay driving, but it doesn’t really matter how much money the drivers are getting, or how long they can use the taxis,” Owen said.

“There just simply aren’t enough of them to make sure that people are reliably getting picked up and getting where they need to go.”

In November last year the State Government extended a $25 subsidy for wheelchair accessible taxis to regional South Australia, but Owen said the problem requires a much larger, overarching solution.

“We keep seeing small measures and little bits and pieces done here and there…but the whole system is still broken. I always welcome any change, but we’ve been seeing this kind of tinkering for two decades, and the problem is still a massive one,” she said.

“The disability community, the people who are most impacted, aren’t part of that decision-making process.”

Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the State Government is working to improve accessibility for those living with mobility issues. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Owen said that many people living with disabilities were unable to use regular taxis or rideshare services due to factors such as large power wheelchairs which cannot be folded up, such as the type that she relies on.

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While Owen said she did not “like having to speak out against an industry” she relies on, change was needed.

“Something as simple as one medical appointment will take up my whole day because I’ve got to allow an hour to an hour and a half for the taxi to be late to pick me up, I’ve got to allow an hour to an hour and a half for it to be late to bring me home,” she said.

“With the doctor’s appointment in the middle of that it’s a whole day, it makes it impossible to run errands the way that other people would run errands, or just… access community the way we should be able to.”

Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis said extending the life of access taxis would provide “greater certainty” as the government works towards a “more strong and sustainable access taxi industry”.

“We are particularly keen to ensure that access taxi services can be accessed at all times of the day and night and are committed to helping the operators who work tirelessly every day to support their passengers,” he said.

Owen believes that the solution would be a much larger fleet of accessible taxis, which could benefit the wider community.

“If we have accessible taxis it benefits people who are trying to move large items, who have luggage, who have strollers,” she said.

“If I was in charge, the very first thing that I would be doing is significantly increasing the fleet.”

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