Online booking is coming to customers of Para Transpo.

The beleaguered service which offers personal rides for 3500 customers in Ottawa on a daily basis has been criticized for long wait times and inefficiencies. Some riders describe waiting on the phone to book a ride for hours at a time.

Transit commission chair Allan Hubley and Councillor Jean Cloutier announced plans for better accessibility including an online booking form in the coming months and mobile application by the end of 2020. The services are still being curated and pending approval by the city.

“The city’s transit commission is responsible for ensuring the development of  safe, efficient, accessible and customer-focused transit systems and that’s what we always strive to do,” said Transit Commission Vice-Chair Cloutier. “We are implementing an interim solution to book Para Transpo trips using an online webform.

“Para Transpo customers have experienced long wait times on booking on phone lines and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their patience as we work to provide an online solution to improve the customer experience,” said Cloutier, announcing the temporary, first-stage of the proposal for online booking service.

Ryan Lythall has waited hours at a time trying to book a ride over the phone.

“To try to get a hold of them, and then a lot of times, there's no answer,” said Lythall, who is physically gets around using a wheelchair. “I'm happy, I’m proud to be here and looking forward to it,” said the Ottawa resident on the announcement promising to improve customer service by alleviating the burden on the backlogged call-centre.

Kathleen Fortin, was a long-time Para Transpo rider, “Since 1986,” she said, until Fortin got a car and caregiver to pick her up and drop her off on a daily basis. Fortin, grew upset and frustrated by the Para Transpo service, saying it has diminished especially over the past 5 years.

“Today was a good step,” said Fortin. “I know of people that are hard of hearing,” pointing to the availability of an online booking service as a major benefit to those with physical impairments and limitations.

“I have better things to do with my time than sit on hold for para for 4-and-a-half hours,” said Susan Barr, whose partner John Redins has used the service for nearly 8 years.

“It makes me feel left out, sometimes I get very depressed about it and it's frustrating for a lot of people,” said Redins; who described waiting for rides and trying to book trips as upsetting.

David Pepper is OC Transpo’s Manager of Customer Service. He said the goal is to provide perfect, personalized service to the city’s 3500 Para Transpo customers every day.

“It's a high demand service and one that requires us to have all the tools in place from the time they book their trip to the time we pick them up and return them home safely; and so focusing on that is essential,” said Pepper.

Riders remain desperate for change, the transit commission plans to release its proposal next week.

“I'm hoping this will improve things but it's going to take some time and some patience,” said Redins.

 The online service is still being developed by the city.