The long battle over the lack of accessible taxis in New York City appears to have come to an end in the last days of 2011, with U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels ruling that the current fleet of largely inaccessible NYC taxis, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. This long anticipated decision is the result of a US Attorneys Office investigation and lawsuit against New York City, which was launched by Assemblyman Micah Kellner.
According to United Spinal Organization, less 2% of the city’s 13,000 taxis are wheelchair-accessible. So in my humble opinion the ruling was fair, and quite frankly, long overdue.
So what happens now?
Well the ruling requires the Bloomberg administration to present a report describing the plan for expanding the wheelchair-accessible taxi fleet. Oh, and until the judge approves the plan, the city can only issue permits for wheelchair-accessible taxis.
That kind of throws a wrench into Mayor Bloomberg’s plans, as the city had planned to start selling permits in the spring for a new class of livery cabs that can be hailed on the street in the outer-boroughs. But, as it stands now the city can only issue permits for wheelchair-accessible taxis, until the Judge Daniels approves Mr. Bloomberg’s report for making the current taxi fleet more accessible.
Additionally, because of the ruling, the city is prohibited from auctioning off more than 400 new Yellow Cab medallions, until the taxi accessibility plan is approved. And that represents a significant revenue stream for the Big Apple.
Don’t expect Mayor Bloomberg to take this lying down though, as it’s rumored that city attorneys may seek a stay. On the other hand, Judge Daniels doesn’t appear to be sympathetic to the Taxi and Limousine Commission. According to the judge, “The TLC?s exercise of its regulatory authority alone has created the discriminatory effects on disabled riders who require the use of wheelchairs. Only the proper exercise of that authority can fix the problem that it created and neglected in the past.”
In any case, we are moving towards a more accessible New York City taxi fleet in 2012, and that’s a great way to start the year. My thanks to all the advocates, attorneys and elected officials that made this happen. Sometimes it really does take a village.