At first glance the new accessible taxi dispatch system for New York City seems like a good thing. After all, less than 2% of New York City cabs are wheelchair-accessible, so actually finding one when you need one can be somewhat of a Herculean task. So what could be better than calling 311 to order your own accessible taxi?
Or so the press release from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) implies.
But there are two sides to every story, so in order to get a fair representation of the issue I went to Taxis for All; a local advocacy group dedicated to making 100% of New York City’s yellow cabs wheelchair-accessible.
And that’s not as lofty of a goal as you may think; after all, that’s already the way things work in London.
But I digress.
What’s wrong with a dedicated accessible taxi dispatch service? Well as Joe Rappaport of Taxis for All pointed out, “Offering an accessible dispatch is a separate and unequal service.”
Think about it for a minute.
The estimated wait time for a dispatched accessible cab is 20-30 minutes; while the averaged able-bodied New Yorker can usually go out and hail a cab in five or so minutes. Now, if all the cabs were wheelchair-accessible it would be a level playing field and everyone would have the same shot at hailing a taxi. But they are not.
And although I applaud advances in accessibility, the new accessible dispatch service just doesn’t seem like a workable long term solution.
And as Rappaport pointed out, “The reason most people take a taxi is because they are late. It’s certainly why I took two this week.” And let’s face it, if you have to wait 20-30 minutes when you are already late; that kind of defeats the whole purpose of taking a cab.
The bottom line is, New York City just needs more accessible cabs – lots of them. And I don’t think the new dispatch system is going to offset that need one bit. Granted, if this was a temporary measure on the way to a 100% wheelchair-accessible fleet, I’d be tickled pink. But it’s not. It’s seen by the administration as the final solution to a problem that’s plagued disabled New Yorkers for decades.
So in my book, it’s a swing and a miss for the Bloomberg camp and the TLC.
As Rappaport said, it’s “separate and unequal.”
And that’s just not an adequate access solution in this day and age.