System to dispatch accessible cabs was found to be underutilized; the cost of a call to hail the specialized cabs: $177.
The Taxi & Limousine Commission acknowledged yesterday the failure of a recently concluded two-year $1 million program to provide dispatch service to wheelchair users.
Hailing accessible cabs has long been nearly impossible due to their rarity, but incredibly, the dispatch initiative did not help.
“Generally the program was very expensive and unfortunately not well-utilized,” TLC head David Yassky told state Assemblymen during a hearing on legislation to require all taxis to accommodate wheelchair-users.
Calls to the dispatcher, expected to average 250 a day, hovered around eight – or about $177 a call. Only 2,701 wheelchair users of an estimated 60,000 citywide used the service.
The program was intended to gauge demand for wheelchair-accessible cabs. Officials had hoped increased demand would spur more taxi owners to outfit their cabs with ramps.
But drivers hated the program, taxi-industry executives said during an Assembly hearing yesterday. A requirement that drivers with accessible cabs enroll in the dispatch program led many to avoid purchasing such cabs altogether. Drivers skipped mandatory training programs on operating wheelchair ramps and ignored calls for rides, preferring instead to be fined.
Wait times for riders using the dispatch service averaged 30 minutes, the TLC says. Dispatchers did not have GPS systems to locate the cabs nearest to customers, although the TLC says that wouldn’t have mattered because cabbies could refuse up to two calls per shift.
Mr. Yassky said the program may have been doomed from the start because many wheelchair users are on fixed incomes and don’t take cabs.
Ethan Gerber, executive director of the Greater New York Taxi Association, whose members operate many of the city’s 240 wheelchair-accessible taxicabs, says the program’s failure was predictable because taxis, unlike livery cars, are designed for street hails, not dispatch service.
Livery cars did not participate in the program. A TLC report on the program is due later this summer.