Thursday, December 16, 2010

NYC experiments with accessible cab rides for people with disabilities to cut costs for Access-A-Ride

From The NY Daily News:

The city is testing a program of giving nearly free cab rides to people with disabilities.

The 90-day experiment is designed to cut costs on the notoriously expensive federally mandated Access-A-Ride van service - at least for the 75% of users who don't need wheelchairs.

"If we can help 75% of Access-A-Ride customers get faster, more convenient service and save the taxpayers some money, why not try it?" Mayor Bloomberg asked Wednesday as he announced the program with MTA Chairman Jay Walder.

Under the test, 500 Access-A-Ride users who live below 96th St. in Manhattan will get prepaid debit cards to pay for regular taxi trips they take within the borough.

The MTA expects to spend $15 on the average trip, compared to $49 for door-to-door Access-A-Ride service.

Users will pay the same $2.25 as subway or bus riders.

"For the very first time, disabled customers will be able to take regularly scheduled trips by doing the same thing that we all take for granted - going outside and hailing a yellow taxi," Walder said.

He called the program "a real game-changer."

One advocate for the disabled hailed the alternative to the often-late and sometimes-slow program derided as "Distress-A-Ride," but said the city needs to include wheelchair users by switching to fully accessible cabs.

"While this is a step forward," said Susan Dooha of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, "the city needs to look at the accessibility of transportation as a whole - including whether all taxicabs are to be accessible and when subways will become accessible."