30-Cent Surcharge Will Fund Accessible Yellow Taxis

By Catherine Yang, Epoch Times
March 26, 2014 7:34 pm Last Updated: March 31, 2014 1:23 pm

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) is proposing a 30-cent surcharge per ride to make half of all yellow taxis accessible by 2020.

The proposal is the result of a settlement last year between TLC and the Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities (MOPD) and four disability rights groups. Taxis are an integral part of the city’s ever-moving transportation network, but only about 2 percent are available to those in wheelchairs.

“We are turning a corner here,” Mayor Bill de Blasio stated. “New Yorkers with disabilities have fought for years to secure basic fairness in transportation. With the concrete rules and plans we are putting in place, we’re finally making an accessible taxi fleet a reality. This is a major step forward.”

Previous efforts to address accessibility have been costly and inefficient. 

Paratransit vans like Access-A-Ride need to be ordered a day in advance and do not necessarily connect to other modes of transportation like subway stations, if the stations have no elevator. Other programs like the 311 dispatch was ruled a “failure” by TLC because it was expensive, not well-utilized, and not timely.

According to James Weisman, who represented one of the disability groups in the suit last year, implementing the accessibility requirements will actually save the city tens of millions every year.

The surcharge would go into effect Jan. 1, 2015 for yellow medallion taxis and green Street Hail Liveries. There are currently 631 accessible yellow taxis.

Lottery

The new vehicles would phase in starting Jan. 1, 2016 until a total of 7,500 taxis are accessible. A lottery will be used to determine which individual-owned medallion cabs will need to be switched out, and grants will be available to subsidize the effort. 

Taxi drivers are also required to receive training to receive wheelchair passenger assistance. This had also been a problem in previous programs. Drivers would avoid buying accessible vehicles so they would not need to enroll in the training programs, or skip mandatory training and opt for fines.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, initially raised concerns the surcharge would be added like a tax, but TLC says the 30 cents will be implemented on top of the base fare in the meter. 

Desai said in a statement NYTWA would like to see the money go into a separate fund so they money is not shifted to other uses. Out of the 30 cent surcharge, 5 cents will go to drivers. Annual grants will also be made available to subsidize maintenance costs.

“These rules signal the most significant advance in taxicab accessibility in the nation’s history,” stated TLC chief operating officer Conan Freud. “We are poised to make this a taxi fleet that is truly for all.”

The new rules will be voted on following a public hearing April 30 at 10 a.m.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the date of the City Council hearing. The hearing and public comments will take place on April 30. Epoch Times regrets this error.