Home Paratransit Accessible taxis could reduce Access-A-Ride costs

Accessible taxis could reduce Access-A-Ride costs

by Benjamin Kabak

Over the past few weeks, New York taxis have dominated the transit headlines. Gov. Andrew Cuomo finally signed the livery cab hail bill, and wheelchair-accessible taxicabs took the spotlight. Despite the high costs of such access, the new plan calls for a steep increase in the number of wheelchair-accessible taxis. Meanwhile, a federal judge decided last week that New York City had to make its taxi fleet more accessible.

For regular subway riders, this news doesn’t seem to carry a big impact. It will be easier to flag down a cab in the outer reaches of New York City that do not enjoy regular yellow cab service, but outside of the money that should come the city’s way, it’s hard to see how these happenings could impact the MTA. They do, however, have the potential to solve a problem by reforming the way Access-A-Ride does business.

According to a report in Crain’s New York, the looming changes to the Taxi & Limousine Commission’s fleet could change Access-a-Ride for the better. Jeremy Smerd has more:

A year ago, the MTA launched a pilot program with the Taxi and Limousine Commission to test the theory that, because 80% of disabled riders do not use wheelchairs, the taxi fleet could handle much of the business now outsourced to private companies at an average cost of $60 per ride.

The program allows 400 riders to use a debit card to pay for taxi service. The passenger pays $2.25—the cost of a one-way subway ride—and the state picks up the rest of the tab. The agency estimates the program will save $34 a trip and, coupled with other changes, $66.2 million next year in paratransit costs. Advocates believe more savings—and better service for riders—would result from expanding the program to the outer boroughs, especially now that as many as 18,000 cars will be allowed to pick up street hails.

Advocates approached the idea of a dedicated debit card to use with livery cars nearly three years ago. They called it the Access-a-Card. But MTA officials balked at the idea because they worried that riders would take advantage of the program and drive-up costs, said Avik Kabessa, a member of the Livery Roundtable who was part of the discussions…The city is putting in place a dispatch system next year that would allow disabled riders to call 311 to get a wheelchair accessible taxi. But it remains unclear whether the Access-a-Ride debit-card pilot program will be expanded.

If the MTA can figure out a way to contain and reduce Access-A-Ride costs, they will gain a tremendous amount of financial flexibility. It often flies below the radar, but the ADA-mandated program costs the authority a few hundred million dollars a year. It’s not a particularly efficient program either with the cost per rider far exceeding that of even the most wasteful bus lines.

As the city gears up to address issues concerning taxi accessibility, TLC officials should work with the MTA to ensure cooperation on cost-reduction measures. The opportunity is there. Now, it’s just up to someone to seize it. Those New Yorkers who rely on the subways would reap the benefits, and those who use Access-A-Ride would find a more flexible and personal system at their disposal.

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BBnet3000 December 29, 2011 - 3:08 am

Back to the drawing board on the Taxi of Tomorrow, with universal accessibility as one of the terms.

Carmen April 18, 2012 - 8:09 pm


This alleged “improved” Access A Ride service is a sham and a fraud, it places the disabled in danger in that most of the livery cars are unsafe,dirty torn seats and foul smelling and I suspect UNINSURED. MTA’s “Brokerage Services” as Access A Ride refers to the new service uses local liverycars (formerly referred to as Gypsy Cabs) driven by reckless drivers, non-Enlish speaking drivers who one can bearely understand. In addition a disabled traveling from Queens to Bronx and vice versa must travel for TWO hours, sometimes even more, because the livery drivers REFUSE TO PAY the bridge tolls between the boroughs and make the trip to the 59th (Ed Koch) Brige. Whose wet dream was this anyway. Obviously someone who is not disabled or knows absolutely NOTHING about people with disabilities.
MTA, Major Bloomberg stop messing with the disabled, the poor, the minorities and giving them LESS AND LESS AND LESS, while you fat cats get all the gravy. MOREOVER, STOP COOKING THE BOOKS!!! AND SCREWING THE PUBLIC.

Al D December 29, 2011 - 11:02 am

I never understood why the MTA got stuck with Access a Ride. The MTA is a mass transit agency, not a special needs agency. Forgive me if that sounds cold, I certainly don’t mean it that way. But this program is better suited for the Mayor’s Office of Disabilities in collaboration with DOT or something like that.

Either way, and again not to sound cold, but why is the ‘fare’ the same as the rest of us pay when the service is door-to-door.

SEAN December 29, 2011 - 11:17 am

The ADA regulations are clear – the fare can be no more than 2x the base fare, could be less. Here in Westchester they charge 2x base fare.

pete January 2, 2012 - 6:08 am

Federal Mandate. Blame DC.

Nathanael January 17, 2012 - 12:17 pm

If the MTA had had the sense to make all its subway stations handicapped-accessible, they wouldn’t have to run Access-A-Ride.

Not to sound cold, but if I break both your legs, you should be able to get about the same subway service you had before. The federal law is there for a reason.

Nathanael January 17, 2012 - 12:19 pm

And yes, when George Bush the Elder passed the ADA, he should have provided funding for the subway station upgrades, and he didn’t.

Andrew January 18, 2012 - 10:52 pm

If the MTA had had the sense to make all its subway stations handicapped-accessible, they wouldn’t have to run Access-A-Ride.

Not true. It wouldn’t be as busy (or costly), but they’d still have to provide Access-a-Ride for people unable to use the subway or bus.

Not to sound cold, but if I break both your legs, you should be able to get about the same subway service you had before.

Not to sound cold, but don’t you think cost should be a consideration?

SEAN December 29, 2011 - 11:06 am

This brings up an interesting question, could these accessable taxies end up replacing the entire Access-A-Ride program? Paratransit by it’s very nature is on one hand nessessary, but on the other hand extremely costly & inefficient to opperate. I wonder if this could strike a healthy ballence.

Hank December 29, 2011 - 11:27 am

Access-A-Ride is a huge boondoggle that looses $100m+ in inefficiencies. This is a great idea and just shows how you can achieve a worthy public goal (transit accessibility for the disabled) in a more efficient manner.

also, agreed with the criticsm re: Karsan and not selecting an accessible cab. I hope whomever is Yaski’s successor comes to his senses and allows the Karsan model on the street as well.

Boris December 29, 2011 - 12:49 pm

I don’t see any politician (or politicians) or the MTA itself picking a fight of this magnitude. Access-A-Ride would face huge layoffs, and we know that in today’s world such special-interest government services are never reduced or discontinued, no matter how inefficient or how many jobs in other sectors of the economy it would create. So for all the enormous benefits of shifting to accessible cabs (if done intelligently with a fraud-proof system), I just don’t see it happening.

Nathanael January 2, 2012 - 1:13 am

Accessible taxes couldn’t replace the Access-A-Ride *program*, but they could quite practically convert it into a subsidy for taxi fares for the disabled, period. (Assuming the taxi companies were willing to do pickups anywhere in NYC.)

(The ADA regs, as noted by Sean, regulate the cost of Access-A-Ride, whereas taxi rates may be higher than that for some trips.)

This would both improve service for disabled people *and* be cheaper.

David in Astoria December 29, 2011 - 11:14 am

It’s stupid that the “next generation” taxi won’t be wheelchair accessible. The Turkish company with the absolute best design was deemed unreliable and yet the Ford Van Box was chosen and it is built in Turkey!
GPS technology combined with software will direct cabbies to all points of the City in the most efficient manner. Cabbies who reject the request will get noticed.

Hank December 29, 2011 - 3:16 pm

Boris, I don’t think it’s the layoffs that will pose the opposition. It’s the gov’t contractors and their lobbyists in City Hall and Albany who will howel the loudest if their golden egg contracts for AccessaRide are endangered.

Brittany June 21, 2012 - 10:56 pm

This is about giving people with disabilities as much freedom and dignity as possible.


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