Some Para-Transit Riders Are About to See Yellow

The city has launched a new pilot program that will allow some disabled Access-A-Ride customers to take taxis instead.

About 400 Manhattan customers will soon receive debit cards that they can use to pay for their cab rides. MTA Chairman Jay Walder says some elderly and disabled riders would rather hail a cab at the last-minute than book a specialized vehicle in advance.

"What this program recognizes is that not all of our Access-a-Ride customers need a wheelchair lift. We can provide a dramatic improvement for this subset of riders that we have," said Walder.

Walder says about 75 percent of Access-A-Ride customers don't need a wheelchair lift.

If the pilot program succeeds, officials said it could save the city and the MTA about $2.5 million a year. The average taxi ride costs $15, compared to $49 a trip for Access-a-Ride.

Only customers traveing below 96th Street will be participating in the voluntary program.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he proposed the idea while on the campaign trail last year.

The experiment will conclude after 90 days and, depending on the results, it may then be expanded to include more customers.