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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Big Apple Accessible Taxi Update

By Terry Moakley

We pay taxes we deserve access - 2012 protest signDuring 2012, progress toward an accessible yellow taxi fleet in New York City slowed to a crawl. However, on January 9, 2013, New York City Council member Oliver Koppell invoked a rarely used procedure called “Sponsor’s Privilege”. This step will force a Transportation Committee vote on Mr. Koppell’s accessible taxi bill by mid-March, and possibly a vote by the full City Council in early May.

The bill, with its veto-proof 35 co-sponsors, would yield a wheelchair-accessible taxi fleet in New York over time. Today, there are just 233 wheelchair-accessible cabs in New York City in a fleet of more than 13,000 yellow taxis.

In another development, City Comptroller John C. Liu rejected the City’s ten year contract with Nissan for the Taxi of Tomorrow on December 14, 2012. Mr. Liu insisted, “We should not go ahead with a so-called Taxi of Tomorrow that perpetuates a shamefully separate and unequal cab fleet for another decade.” 

In September 2012, the New York Taxi Commission rolled out its own solution, an “Accessible Dispatch” system. It gives people with disabilities five ways to order an accessible taxicab: call 311; call the accessible dispatch center directly at (646) 599-9999; text a request to them at (646) 400-0789; download their mobile app, or book your trip on their website.

But has the Commission marketed this system? No. Can one board an accessible taxi anywhere? No, only in Manhattan. It’s still easier to travel to New York by train or bus because accessible cabs aren’t being dispatched to area airports. People with disabilities are waiting more than 30 minutes for an accessible cab to arrive while people without disabilities move in and out of taxis all around them.

The organized disability and Independent Living advocates of New York will continue to advocate aggressively for a fully-accessible taxi system.

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