Wednesday, December 8, 2010

NYC may create centralized taxi dispatch for wheelchair users

From The NY Daily News:

The city may create a centralized dispatch system for wheelchair users across the city to call for rides - in either a yellow cab or a livery minivan, the Daily News has learned.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission would set standards for how quickly rides must be provided after a telephone request, according to TLC documents describing the proposal.

Passengers would pay the standard metered rate now charged in all 13,237 yellow cabs, while drivers would get subsidies.

"We believe such a dispatch system is an achievable goal that would materially improve transportation options for wheelchair users in lieu of a fully wheelchair-accessible taxicab fleet," one document states.

The documents suggest the TLC may hire an outside company to coordinate the 240 accessible yellow cabs and two dozen accessible vans now picking up passengers in the city.

It's unclear if the dispatching company would have to bolster the number of accessible vehicles. Under the proposal, a passenger shouldn't have to wait more than 60 minutes for a ride.

The program wouldn't replace the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's federally mandated Access-A-Ride program.

A spokesman for the TLC declined to comment.

The News yesterday reported on a draft TLC report that declared a two-year pilot program allowing wheelchair users to call for cabs a costly failure. Too few cabbies with accessible vehicles participated, the report said.

The new system would give drivers an economic incentive to participate.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner (D-Manhattan), an advocate for disabled residents, wasn't enthusiastic.

"Yellow cabs and for-hire vehicles are apples and oranges," Kellner said. "Commingling them in a single dispatch system won't work and it won't make anyone happy, not the taxi industry, not the for-hire industry, and, most importantly, not people with disabilities."