Thursday, April 22, 2010

NY livery cabs illegally overcharging for accessible vehicles, report says

From am New York:

Many livery cabs aren’t wheelchair accessible, and the ones that are have become a price-gouging paradise, according to a damning report released April 21.

Livery cabs have been illegally charging an average of $37 more for an accessible-vehicle than a regular one, the report by Assemblyman Micah Kellner, (D-Manhattan), found. Rates for limos — or black cars — were $109 more on average.

“Wheelchair users are finding the door slammed in their face,” said Kellner, whose office surveyed all 563 livery and black car companies in the city last year.

According to the report, 40 percent of livery car companies and 43 percent of black car companies said that they would be unable to provide any services for a wheelchair user.

Meanwhile, the Taxi and Limousine Commission only began recently enforcing a rule requiring the companies provide equivalent service to wheelchair-users — six years after the regulation went into effect.

“It is an outrage,” said Jean Ryan, of the Taxis for ALL Campaign. “We need more accessible cars and more oversight from the TLC.”

Part of the problem, the report found, is that 164 of the companies rely on just four contractors to provide accessible-cars, as they don’t own their own. Drivers fold up wheelchairs and put them in trunks when they can, but buying accessible-cars would bankrupt livery cab companies, said Fernando Mateo, spokesman for the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, which represents livery cabs.

“We can’t provide the service. Who is going to subsidize the cost of it?” Mateo said.

The TLC said it is now enforcing the rule and has issued 30 summonses to companies for violating it, spokesman Allan Fromberg said.

“There is clearly much more work to be done, and we will continue to monitor the situation carefully,” Fromberg said.