Sunday 12 October 2014

“Full-serve gas option disappears within city”

Due to website issues, this article appeared only in the July 12th print issue of the Kingston Whig-Standard. I wanted to share it online.

“Full-serve gas option disappears within city”

Chloe Sobel
The Whig-Standard

Kingston’s last full-serve gas station closed two weeks ago, leaving drivers with disabilities at a loss.

The Ultramar station at Princess Street and Sydenham Road was the only full-serve station in Kingston after Petersen’s Garage closed in April. Now, those with mobility problems face a greater challenge filling their tanks.

Neil Allen, program co-ordinator at Independent Living Centre Kingston and a wheelchair user, said that full-serve options have become increasingly limited over the past few years.

“You used to be able to find them here and there, and then they just became harder and harder to find,” he said. “But now it’s to the point where … well, where you can’t.”

He said his only option now is to have someone with him who can gas his vehicle for him, because trying to do it himself poses too many problems with parking, leaving enough space between the vehicle and the pump, and reaching the pump.

He had spoken to another wheelchair user, who shared her problems when she tried to find assistance at a local gas bar.

“She pulled into a gas station … and she got their attention finally, but they sent a customer out to tell her that they weren’t able to leave the store because there was only one person … on staff at the time,” Allen said.

Another customer helped fill up her vehicle.

The community is frustrated, Allen said. People have been passing around ideas about what to do next. A number of people, Allen included, have been writing to different gas companies such as Petro-Canada, Canadian Tire and Ultramar.

The closure of the last full-serve gas station doesn’t only affect people living in Kingston, but people passing through on Hwy. 401. He said that if he has to travel between cities, he makes sure to fill up his tank before he leaves because he doesn’t know where or if he’ll be able to find a full-serve station.

While there are still full-serve stations in rural areas like Harrowsmith and Sydenham, gas there can be more expensive and often out of the way for drivers.

“It limits a person’s ability to shop around when you don’t have that many options to begin with … and gas certainly is not cheap,” Allen said.

Ideally, he said, companies would have staff on hand to help drivers with disabilities refill their vehicles, and cited Pioneer’s disabled-customer policy, which is displayed at every Pioneer site.

“Something like that would be an option if it worked every time,” Allen said.

“But it seems right now like it’s not even sort of on [companies’] radar, which is sort of frustrating because, you know—what do you do?”

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