The city's new "group ride" van service discriminates against the disabled - and violates federal law - because the vans aren't wheelchair-accessible, a new lawsuit charges.
In the fall, the Taxi and Limousine Commission launched the van pilot program for bus riders whose routes were eliminated by the MTA in June.
Milagros Franco (pictured), 34, a wheelchair user from Manhattan, said she was excited when she first heard about the van service, but became enraged upon learning wheelchair users wouldn't be able to ride them.
All Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses are wheelchair accessible.
Franco, the United Spinal Association and another wheelchair user are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which alleges the TLC has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It was being filed Nov. 9 in Brooklyn Federal Court, said James Weisman, senior vice president and general counsel of the association.
The TLC chose and regulates the private van operators providing the service in parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
Franco works at a social service center in Brooklyn about five blocks from the Manhattan Bridge. She used to ride one of the now-eliminated routes over the East River span.
Now, Franco's commute includes riding her motorized scooter over the bridge, which is about 1.5 miles long, and taking other MTA buses between work and home on E. 21st St.
"I'm not going to be able to do that once the snow starts coming down," Franco said.
"This is just picking a population that received service from a public transportation agency and saying we're not going to serve them," Weisman said. "If this was any other minority group protected by civil rights law, this would be treated as an outrage."
While the MTA eliminated or scaled back dozens of local and express bus routes, the vans operate along parts of just five of them. Officials said the pilot program could expand if successful, but ridership has been weak.
"We have looked into it and believe that the TLC's actions comply with the law," said Elizabeth Thomas, a spokeswoman for the city's Law Department.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Disabled riders sue New York City, after van replacements for cut bus lines have no wheelchair access
The NY Daily News:
Posted by BA Haller at 5:12 PM