Sunday, October 30, 2011
After the Justice Department urged a federal judge to make New York City’s taxi system accessible to wheelchair users, Mayor Bloomberg has tried to defend the city’s violation of civil rights with ill-informed and dismissive comments. But he and the TLC are off the mark on virtually every point they’ve made about wheelchair-accessibility. Take a look. (All direct quotations below.)
Bloomberg: The Justice Department’s view doesn’t mean the court will agree. [Citation: “Number one, I don’t know that just because the Justice Dept. says something that we wouldn’t find something different if it were to go to court and I’m not sure what the city’s going to do yet.” (News availability, October 19, 2011)]
FACT: The Justice Department held that the city is engaged in discrimination. A federal court is unlikely to ignore this or dismiss this easily.
Bloomberg: Accessible taxis just won’t work in a city like New York. [It just doesn’t work in a city like ours and I don’t know that the Attorney General understands how people live in the city and the traffic patterns and that sort of thing.” (Oct. 19th.) “The cabs that we picked so far [for the Taxi of Tomorrow] are easier for handicapped people that are not wheelchair bound [sic].” (WOR interview, October 14th)]
FACT: Wheelchair accessibility works in London, where every taxi has a ramp that allows wheelchair users (and people with walkers and strollers) to get in easily. London started its move toward accessibility in 1989. Why wouldn’t it work here in New York, other than a lack of will by the mayor?
Bloomberg: Our dispatch plan makes more sense. [“We have a plan that we think makes a lot more sense than what the Attorney General suggested.” (Oct. 19th)]
FACT: The city’s dispatch plan would offer separate and unequal service. Under the plan, we’d wait 20 minutes, 40 minutes or even more than an hour for a taxi (according to the TLC) after making a phone call to a special dispatch line.
Bloomberg: Drivers won’t pick up wheelchair users. [“A lot of the cab drivers just would, I think, pretend that they didn’t see you [wheelchair users trying to hail a taxi].” (WOR interview, Oct. 14, 2011)]
FACT: It’s up to Mayor Bloomberg and the TLC to enforce the law. TLC regulations and city law prohibit such service denials. In testimony before the City Council on April 11, TLC chair David Yassky described the TLC’s extensive efforts to combat service refusals and its support for a bill to increase penalties for refusals.
Bloomberg: It’s hard for wheelchair users to flag down a taxi. [“If you’re in a wheelchair, it’s really hard to go out in the street and hail down a cab and get the cab to pull over and get into and so, forget about the other reasons, just for that alone, we think there’s a better ways to do it.” (Oct. 19th)]
FACT: Wheelchair users are quite able to hail a taxi. Our groups – the city’s leading disability rights and service organizations (list below) – and the men and women we represent are strongly in favor of accessible taxis and liveries.
Bloomberg: The cab industry will fight accessible taxis tooth-and-nail. ["I think the cab industry will fight that [accessible taxis] tooth-and-nail." (Oct. 14th)]
FACT: The Greater New York Taxi Association condemned the mayor’s “divisive” comments and stated: “Let us be clear: We’re for accessibility.”
Bloomberg: Accessible cabs are too big, so drivers “can’t establish a dialogue, and they get lower tips.” [“When the cabs are big enough for a wheelchair…cab drivers say that the passengers sit farther away and they can’t establish a dialogue, and they get lower tips.” (Oct. 14th)]
FACT: C’mon. What can you say to this?
Yassky (TLC chair): Our goal is 100% accessibility and the Taxi of Tomorrow will get us close to that. [“With one of our long-term goals being 100% accessibility of all our fleets, we believe that the Taxi of Tomorrow Request for Proposal will help us get very close to that goal.” (Testimony of David Yassky before Assembly committees, July 14, 2011)]
FACT: The TLC selected a non-accessible Nissan NV2000 as the Taxi of Tomorrow on May 3rd. This vehicle would be in use as the exclusive model for yellow taxis for a decade. That means that the TLC has no short- or long-term goals for 100% accessibility.
Bloomberg: There’s no demand for accessible taxis. [“…There are cabs right now that are accessible and there’s virtually no demand for them and the reason I think, more than anything, cause certainly there are people in wheelchairs who need service, but they just can’t go out and flag ‘em down.” (Oct. 19th)]
FACT: Only 230 yellow taxis are accessible out of 13,237 cabs – one in 54. Why would wheelchair users try to hail a taxi with those kinds of odds? This is a similar argument to those made in the 1980s when wheelchair-accessible buses were proposed.
Yassky: We don’t know of any vehicle that is accessible and “ecology-friendly.” [“To our knowledge, there currently is no vehicle that exists on the market today or even in production that is both ‘ecology friendly’ and wheelchair accessible and would meet the needs of the taxicab industry.” (July 14th)]
FACT: At the time, the TLC was engaged in negotiations concerning the MV-1 vehicle, which is accessible, has a compressed natural gas (CNG) option and was designed with the needs of the taxi industry in mind. Its backers include taxi fleet owners from Chicago.
Bloomberg: Accessible taxis sell for about $15,000 more.
FACT: Most wheelchair-accessible taxis are available at far less than the extra $15,000 the mayor claims. In addition, there are federal tax credits and a potential state tax credit (passed by both houses of the legislature) that will lower the real price of accessible vehicles significantly.
Bloomberg: Accessible vehicles aren’t as comfortable for “handicapped people that are not wheelchair bound [sic]” or for the “average” rider. [“Their suspension is much worse so the average person riding in them finds them really uncomfortable and they use a lot more gas.” (Oct. 19th)]
FACT: Just what is an average rider? Many riders find non-accessible minivans hard to get in because they’re too high off the ground and say there’s too little legroom in many cabs. Beyond that, the new MV-1 is factory-built in the U.S. as an accessible taxi. Structural concerns from retrofitting don't apply to this new vehicle.
Bloomberg: The street-hail bill would make a big difference for under-served neighborhoods. [“The bill that would give taxi service to four boroughs and everything north of 96th street in Manhattan that have not had taxi service ever is a bill that will really make a big difference.” (Oct. 19th)]
FACT: The city’s street-hail bill perpetuates a system in which an under-served group is shut out, even while it is intended to increase service to ‘under-served’ neighborhoods.
PRODUCED BY THE TAXIS FOR ALL CAMPAIGN. Visit http://taxisforall.blogspot.com.
Taxis For All Campaign members include: Bronx Independent Living Services • Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled · Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York · Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York · Disabilities Network of New York City · Harlem Independent Living Center · National Multiple Sclerosis Society, NYC-Southern New York Chapter · United Spinal Association · VetsFirst · 504 Dems-North Star · 504 Democratic Club
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