Submitted by Carol Tyson
Director, Disability Policy
United Spinal Association
For the WAMATA Accessibility Advisory Committee
January 4, 2016
Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I have submitted concerns to WMATA regarding a comment from Mr. Kent on a recent PlanItMetro blog regarding paratransit, and to WMATA’s Lyft partnership announcement.
WMATA has announced a partnership with Lyft that allows all Metro riders that do not require wheelchair access to request a discounted ride home from a bus or subway stop. United Spinal is deeply disappointed that WMATA has chosen to partner with Lyft – a service that has yet to provide an accessible option for wheelchair users. While it may be legal, it sends a message to the riding public that WMATA does not prioritize access for all.
Mr. Kent stated in the blog post that WMATA will likely be partnering with Uber and Lyft to provide alternative paratransit service. In addition, there are rumors that WMATA may be leaning towards allowing Uber and its competitors to provide paratransit service to riders without mobility impairments. United Spinal is concerned.
- Advocates have called for Uber and its competitors to provide accessible service to all.
- Uber has announced wheelchair accessible service, but they are only partnering with a limited number of taxis rather than increasing the number of accessible vehicles available.
- We have witnessed a dramatic decline in the availability of accessible taxis in NYC and San Francisco since Uber entered those markets.
- Uber and Lyft both continue to resist acknowledging that they need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- I am also concerned about the working conditions and wages provided to private vehicle for hire drivers, especially as the low wages and difficult working conditions of MetroAccess drivers are already an issue that we hope can be addressed in the near future.
- Partnering with Uber and Lyft to provide paratransit service only for those without mobility impairments would lead to creation of a two tiered paratransit system – to segregation and, likely, a lower class of service for wheelchair users in the near future and going forward.
- Most of all, Uber, and Lyft, have managed to change the way that this country thinks about transportation – while it may have meant better quality transportation for many, it is now commonplace and accepted to consider access for everyone as an afterthought and something that does not need to be addressed in a business model. I have heard Uber’s lack of accessibility referred to as a wrinkle that will eventually get worked out and been told to be patient (by Councilmembers, and Uber and its spokespeople). My response is always that people aren’t wrinkles, and neither is ensuring access for all. It should be a requirement from the start.
My hope is that WMATA will use its influence to engage Uber and Lyft in discussions regarding the need for access for all. I know that not everyone agrees. I understand that there is a common belief that MetroAccess funding is unsustainable, but I believe that calling for adequate public and paratransit transportation funding, and continuing to improve accessibility of bus and rail, will address these issues. Ensuring access for all must be the priority.
Allowing Uber and Lyft to provide the service if they also provide accessible paratransit service, and acknowledge the need for ADA compliance, is one way to save money and ensure access in the long run, and for WMATA to set a tone and be a leader for the rest of the country.
There are a few articles that may be helpful in clarifying United Spinal’s position. Links below.
If Uber Kills Cabs, Cities Must Ensure Accessible Vehicles Live, Huffington Post, Dec 2015 (this article presents the argument regarding Uber and paratransit)
Uber Does Not Serve Disabled People, Say D.C. Advocates, WAMU, Aug 17, 2015
Uber Launches Wheelchair-Accessible Service In D.C. After Years Of Criticism, WAMU, Dec 14, 2015
This issue was raised with GM Wiedefeld at the December Riders’ Union meeting.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my concerns, and for all that you do to ensure transportation is accessible for all.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]