Taxi of Tomorrow leaving wheelchair-bound New Yorkers frustrated

Posted at 11:13 PM, May 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-16 23:13:02-04

Taxi industry groups, drivers, and passengers all seem to have one problem or another with the Taxi of Tomorrow, but the issue of accessibility seems to be driving a wedge between all three.  Whether or not the groups find a fair compromise could change the cabs we see here in the city.

Danny Delany says he doesn’t take cabs often, but it’s not because he doesn’t want to.

Delany says he’s waited more than an hour to flag down a cab.

And it’s no wonder why: just 2%, — or about 230 — of the city’s cabs are wheelchair accessible. For the 170,000 New Yorkers in wheelchairs, that can make find one difficult. Even if they find a cab, there’s no guarantee it won’t already be occupied by an able-bodied person.

Delany, like many other New Yorkers in wheelchairs, thought the Taxi of Tomorrow would make life a little easier.

“It doesn’t make sense that anything “of tomorrow” wouldn’t be accessible,” he said.

But right now, there’s no guarantee that that will be the case. Making the new Nissan Taxi accessible is not required by law and doing so would cost owners about $14,000.

Taxi Safety Commission Director David Pollack says there just aren’t enough wheelchair fares each day to justify the cost.

“For 56 fares a day you’re going to transfer and retrofit 13,000 yellow taxicabs to accessible vehicles? It’s beyond logic,” he said.

But right now City Council is considering a bill to do just that. If it’s approved all 13,000 yellow cabs in New York would be affected.

Driver Rob Sheridan has been driving a cab for 16 years.  He says he’s surprised that accessibility wasn’t already part of the agreement with Nissan.

“If you’re going to give an exclusive deal to one company to make The taxi of tomorrow then at the very least you got to make it wheelchair accessible,” Sheridan said.

It’s not just people with wheelchairs, people with injuries and the elderly would also have an easier time getting into and out of accessible cabs. Delany says it’s not like making more cabs accessible wpuld reduce the fleet for able bodied passengers. “Everyone could use an accessible cab,” he said.

Delany says he has seen able bodied people using the accessible cabs plenty of times in the past making it even more difficult for him to find a cab. But one thing he says has helped: a dispatch service app called Wow Taxi.  With it Delany says he can request a disabled cab which usually arrives within 15-20 minutes.