Court Gives Green Light to Accessible Taxis

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It’s official: half of New York City’s yellow cabs will be wheelchair-accessible by 2020, and a 30-cent surcharge is going to pay for it.

A New York City judge issued an order Monday that greenlights the accessibility goals, granting preliminary approval of a settlement agreement. Several disability rights groups and one disabled passenger had filed suit against the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2011, demanding that the city increase the number of accessible vehicles in the city’s taxi fleet. Only 631 yellow cabs are currently wheelchair-accessible.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration in March proposed a 30-cent surcharge on each taxi and street-hail livery ride. That money will go into a Taxicab Improvement Fund (and a parallel fund for "street hail liveries," aka green taxis) to help drivers and owners either convert existing cars, or purchase new ones.

According to the city, the fee should raise enough money to cover the cost of conversion and what the agency calls “additional operational costs associated with accessible taxis,” like extra maintenance. Drivers will get 5 of the 30 cents, to compensate them for “costs associated with accessibility,” like extra training on how to operate the accessible cars.

The surcharge was approved by the TLC in late April, but the lawsuit had to be resolved before the city could move forward on its 50 percent accessibility target. With Monday’s order, the road is clear for a dramatic increase in accessible vehicles — some 7,500 by 2020. The surcharge will be folded in to the metered fare starting in 2015.

The TLC has also proposed that all green borough taxis also be accessible by 2020. 

"We feel that everyone should have to be 100% accessible. I believe the entire industry, red, green, purple, yellow, whatever should all be held to the same standards," said Edith Prentiss, chair of the Taxis for All Campaign, one of the plaintiffs in the 2011 suit.