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Access to public transportation is essential for people with disabilities to live actively and participate fully in our society.

United Spinal believes all New York City taxis should be accessible to people with disabilities. The demand for accessible taxis will continue to increase as baby boomers age, desire to remain active, and live longer than any generation that preceded them.

Successful accessible taxi services exist in more than 100 U.S. communities, including large cities such as Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas, and Portland. In New York City, however, very few accessible taxis are in operation, out of a fleet of more than 13,000 yellow cabs. These conditions prevent many aging and disabled New Yorkers from fully participating in the communities in which they live.

Many people with mobility, cognitive and visual impairments would choose to use taxis rather than go through the cumbersome advance reservation process required by Access-A-Ride.

New York City Transit would substantially reduce its Access-A-Ride budget by contracting with and using accessible taxis to provide service rather than using Access-A-Ride vehicles which require drivers, fuel, maintenance and replacement, all at taxpayer expense.   

The resale market for used accessible taxis will be enormous as rural, suburban and urbanized area taxi companies realize they can become Medicaid/paratransit carriers in their communities at the same time and with the same vehicles as they operate traditional taxi services.

MTA, TLC and people with disabilities must work together to solve the inaccessible taxi problem in New York City because transportation planning without employing principles of universal design will burden state government with unnecessarily “special needs” and dependency budgets for generations.




4/30/2014: New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission voted unanimously for a 50 percent accessible taxi increase by 2020 in The Big Apple. Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed to add a 30-cent surcharge to all cab rides to help with the transition to a larger accessible fleet.

12/6/2013:  A historic settlement agreement was announced between the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC), United Spinal Association, and other disability organizations that would make 50 percent of yellow taxis in Manhattan wheelchair accessible.

4/18/2013: City Council hearing on Proposed Int. No. 433-A, a bill that would require all new taxis in NY to be accessible. Bloomberg’s Administration continues to oppose accessible taxis.  The law will be voted on within 30 days of the hearing.

4/2013: The Southern District Court of NY District Court allowed disability advocates to include in their case against the TLC a complaint citing that the Nissan NV200 is a van and, as such, violates the ADA which requires new vans to be wheelchair accessible

8/2012: The NY State Supreme Court overturned the HAIL Act, stating that the city had violated the home-rule provisions of the State Constitution because New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had initially taken the issue to the City Council and was blocked.  There were three separate lawsuits, all filed by the taxi industry.  The industry argued that the law violated the rights of taxi drivers who owned medallions and paid for the right to pick up street hails, that the 2,000 new medallions would create unnecessary competition, and that livery drivers deserved added security measures before picking up street hails, among other things.  The Taxicab Association lawsuit stated that the wheelchair accessibility issue could be addressed without state involvement.  The vast majority of the arguments against the state law did not revolve around wheelchair accessible taxis.

2/2012: Governor Cuomo signed A8691A-2011, otherwise known as the HAIL Act (Hail Accessible Inter-borough License), into law.  The legislation would have issued 18,000 hail licenses for NYC’s five boroughs.  These new licenses would have gone to livery cabs (non-metered car services).   The law required that 20 percent of the new licenses go towards wheelchair accessible vehicles.  In addition, the law allowed for the sale of 2,000 new wheelchair accessible taxi medallions.  This would have raised $1 billion for the city.  

5/2011: The TLC announced a contract with for the Nissan NV200 as the city’s official Taxi of Tomorrow.  The mini-van would replace the city’s 13,000 taxis and would be phased in over 5 years, Taxi of Tomorrow.

12/23/2011: The Southern District Court of New York court stated that meaningful access to taxis was required. The TLC appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Second Court sided with the TLC and sent the case back to the Southern District which has allowed disability advocates to include in their case a complaint citing that the City’s proposed choice for its ‘Taxi of Tomorrow’––the Nissan NV200––is a van and, as such, violates the ADA which requires new vans to be wheelchair accessible.

12/20/2011: United Spinal goes to Albany, NY and wins the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who forced Mayor Michael Bloomberg (as outspoken an opponent of accessible taxis as Mayor Ed Koch was of accessible mass transit 30 years before) to agree to a state statute requiring 2,000 new accessible taxis in Manhattan and at least 3,600 accessible taxis in the other four boroughs (a taxi owner’s group recently sued and obtained an injunction preventing this law from being applied).

11/17/2011: Iowa Senator Tom Harkin who chairs the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on Capitol Hill regarding the state of accessible transportation in the US. Harkin showed support for United Spinal’s advocacy efforts to make New York City’s taxi fleet fully accessible and criticized Mayor Bloomberg’s stance on the issue.

1/2011: United Spinal, along with other disability groups filed a class action lawsuit against the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) arguing that the TLC is covered by Title 2 of the ADA and as such must provide meaningful access to NYC’s taxi system. The suit is significant, in part, because the TLC is on the verge of selecting a new model for New York’s entire fleet of taxis. The taxi fleet will start to be replaced with the new model during the next two years. The Justice Department (US DOJ) filed a statement of interest in the case in support of people with disabilities stating every taxi should be accessible.



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