In December, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced a pilot program for Access-A-Ride customers to take taxi rides for the price of a paratransit ride, but wheelchair users are not eligible for the program.
Customers will pay $2.25 for the ride and the MTA will fund the remainder. The trips are expected to cost an average of $15 per trip, compared with $49 for an Access-A-Ride trip. Three-quarters of Access-A-Ride passengers are recorded as not needing a life-equipped vehicle to board.
Riders in the pilot program will be able to use prepaid debit cards for trips that will be limited to areas south of 96th Street. The program will enroll 400 riders.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, MTA Chief Executive Jay Walder and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced the program on December 15.
The announcement comes on the heels of a City Council hearing about a bill that would require the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) to choose an accessible vehicle for its Taxi of Tomorrow program, which aims to replace the city’s more than 13,000 taxis with a uniform model. The TLC opposes this proposed requirement.
Edith Prentiss, vice president for legislative affairs of Disabled in Action, questioned whether there are 400 subscription Access-A-Ride users below 96th Street and said, “On top of that I’m just really offended morally because instead of now having regular people and Access-A-Ride, we’re going to have regular people, ambulatory people and then we’re going to have Access-A-Ride users.”
Prentiss also worries that this could lead to a reduction in the number of paratransit vehicles and an additional segregation of users. “Even though I rarely use Access-A-Ride, I do feel very uncomfortable with them making another strata, another layer, another class,” she said.
Marvin Wasserman, executive director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, spoke in support of the new pilot program with reservations.
“The cost of an average taxi or community car service ride is less than half the average for an Access-A-Ride trip, so it makes sense for the MTA (which oversees Access-A-Ride) to seek to substantially reduce it's cost while providing better service to consumers,” he said. “I look forward to its expansion to include all Access-A-Ride consumers in all five boroughs.”
This article was published in the February 2011 issue of Able News.