New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has voted unanimously for a 50 percent accessible taxi increase by 2020 in The Big Apple.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed to add a 30-cent surcharge to all cab rides to help with the transition to a larger accessible fleet.
United Spinal Association, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), and other disability advocates who have tirelessly fought to increase the number of accessible cabs on New York City streets were in attendance when the historic announcement was made on April 30 at TLC’s headquarters.
“It is our understanding that the 30-cent fee increase, the ‘Taxi Improvement Surcharge,’ which will be paid to yellow medallion cabs and street hail liveries, is more than adequate to offset the cost and maintenance of accessibility features in these vehicles, as well as to operate a central dispatch system for accessible liveries,” said James Weisman, SVP and general counsel of United Spinal.
“The TLC could lead the way, under new Commissioner Meera Joshi, and New York City could become the first in the nation to make its taxi and livery fleets really usable by those with mobility impairments. Business travelers and tourists with disabilities will appreciate the ability to get from point to point in our city safely, quickly and affordably. Families with a disabled family member won’t skip New York City when planning vacations. Benefits related travel financed by vocational rehabilitation agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicaid and, of course, Access-A-Ride will reap dramatic savings as we change the meaning of the word taxi together,” Weisman added.
“Reliable accessible transportation changes my life. When I can be counted on to participate with my family, friends and colleagues my life becomes full. I’m no longer relegated to stay home or to spend hours, literally, trying to get somewhere that takes everybody else 20 minutes–always arriving late, anxious and angry,” explained Ronnie Raymond, a United Spinal board member and wheelchair user. “I want to have a life that is meaningful, affordable and achievable. Given my circumstances which I did not choose, wheelchair accessible taxis and liveries will significantly change my life. It is now time to make this happen.”
The unanimous decision is a huge victory in a long battle that began in 2011 when United Spinal, along with other disability groups filed a class action lawsuit against the TLC arguing that it had to provide meaningful access to NYC’s taxi system under Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Currently, only 230 of the city’s more than 13,000 cabs are wheelchair accessible.
Access to public transportation is essential for people with disabilities to live actively and participate fully in our society.
United Spinal believes all New York City taxis should be accessible to people with disabilities. The demand for accessible taxis will continue to increase as baby boomers age, desire to remain active, and live longer than any generation that preceded them.
Successful accessible taxi services exist in more than 100 U.S. communities, including large cities such as Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas, and Portland. In New York City, however, very few accessible taxis are in operation, out of a fleet of more than 13,000 yellow cabs. These conditions prevent many aging and disabled New Yorkers from fully participating in the communities in which they live.