Accessible Taxicab Boondoggle

Once again, the U.S. legal process, and its bungling by nincompoop attorneys and elected officials and their departments, has squandered tens of millions of dollars, and will waste tens of millions more before 2020. Instead of New York City expanding its “complementary paratransit” fleet to include several hundred wheelchair-accessible taxis (which could cost roughly half as much as their existing, oversized vehicles, and operate at less cost as well), the National Disability Rights Educational Defense Fund insisted that NYC replace all 13,000+ of its taxis with “wheelchair-accessible taxis” – which only a tiny fraction of wheelchair users would use, since they can get service, on-day-in-advance, for a tiny fraction of the cost from the City’s complementary paratransit service. And if that service – Access-A-Ride – deployed hundreds of accessible taxis, part-time, when needed, in its fleet, the rest of the time these taxis could float around the City and serve as regular accessible taxis – whether hailed or dispatched – more than enough for the needs of wheelchair users willing to pay full taxi fares for same-day service. 

As a recognized forensic/expert witness firm in the taxi business, Transportation Alternatives spoke to both parties in this dispute – and offered to assist both of them to resolve the problem cost-effectively. Instead:

  • The Disability Rights Educational Defense Fund did not care about the economics, it simply wanted every taxi to be accessible.
  • The City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission’s attorney was too stupid to understand the solution, forwarded a bunch of “motions” for me to review, never called me back to discuss them, and never returned any of our telephone calls.

As a result, by 2020, half of all NYC taxis will be wheelchair accessible. Transportation Alternatives is thrilled that wheelchair users will have the option of both cheap, one-day-in-advance service as well as costly, same-day taxi service like everyone else. The problem is, these same choices could have been achieved for not only no money, but likely saving the City $30,000,000 to $40,000,000 (a crude estimate) if it had integrated these vehicles into its complementary paratransit fleet. By the way, this colossal waste occurred during the final moments of former Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, not during the administration of new mayor Bill DeBlasio.