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Taxis For All Campaign News Blog

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hailing Cabs from a Wheelchair
By Edith M. Prentiss
From this month's issue of Able Newspaper (May 2009)

We’ve all read and written about the problems with the lack of wheelchair accessible taxis in New York City. The Taxi for All Campaign has fought for almost fifteen years to rectify the problem. TFAC was the impetus for failed intros in the City Council that would have required a gradual transition of the fleet to accessible as vehicles are replaces, every few years. Instead of seriously pursuing wheelchair accessible taxis, the City opted for clean air hybrid taxis. The minor increase in the number of accessible taxis has been achieved solely by selling medallions restricted for accessible taxis. Without a transition program, the percentage of accessible taxi is contingent upon the continued sale of medallions.

But for the GOOD news: in early March, I was rushing from PT on 218th St to a meeting at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (Orchard & Broome). I planned to wheel down Broadway to 207; take an A train to West 4th. take a M21 across Houston to Allen and finally wheel to Broome. Taking buses on Broadway and Allen were possibilities but only if buses were at the stops. As I waited for the M21, the threatening skies opened. Before I got soaked, miracle of miracles, an empty accessible cab turned from 6th Ave. I threw my air in the air and yelled TAXI! The cab stopped and I wheeled in. It had been 17 years since I hailed a yellow cab! I was so excited, I spent the trip calling friends.

A few weeks, I had to go from Washington Heights to 116 St and Fifth Ave early in the evening. The A train would have taken me to 125 and St Nicholas which is a good wheel or a bus. The M4, being the only bus that crosses 110 St from Broadway, is a nightmare then. My choice was a M98 and wheel from Lexington Ave. Several M4s past but not the scheduled M98, and then there was an accessible taxi. Again, up flew my arm and the cab stopped. I’d always been concerned about rear entry cabs. But it was no harder than bumping off the curb when a bus stops in the street. The driver dropped me at a driveway and I easily wheeled onto the sidewalk.

Interestingly enough, Access-A-Ride is trying to use the Central Dispatch System, which we’re transferred to from 311, when a wheelchair users’ regular AAR trip fails. But AAR has experienced the same frustrations as regular callers, which is that there are simply not enough accessible taxis and since accepting trips from Executive is voluntary, not enough taxis are signing on to accept trips for wheelchair users.

Only a fully accessible fleet will resolve these problems! But there is still the problem of inaccessible black cars and liveries for those where taxis don’t cruise. A few street hails do not indicate the problem is over. TFAC has a long fight yet!

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