The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission unanimously approved a proposal Wednesday to add a 30-cent surcharge on rides to offset the costs of making cabs more accessible to wheelchairs.
TLC chair Meera Joshi said the price increase will help ensure that more hails can be served and it will make the fleet more efficient.
"The actions taken today by the Taxi and Limousine Commission as a unified body represent the most significant advancement in equality for persons with disabilities in the taxi industry's history," she said.
Currently, 631 out of the 13,637 the taxis with medallions are wheelchair accessible, roughly 4.3%.
The TLC said it will use the money collected from the surcharge, which goes into effect starting Jan. 1 for both yellow and green cabs, to pay for the cost of retrofitting the cabs.
Joshi told the TLC board that half of the yellow cab fleet will be wheelchair accessible by 2020.
Yesterday's vote came after years or protests and legal battles from New Yorkers who use wheelchairs and accessibility advocacy groups who said the city wasn't doing enough to meet their needs.
Many of those residents testified before the vote and thanked board membersfor making progress in retrofitting the cabs.
"This is an awesome day," said Edith Prentiss, the vice president of the nonprofit group Disabled in Action. "The lack of accessible travel is very important in our lives."
There were a few speakers who were against the surcharge, claiming that it wasn't right for all taxi users to bear the cost of the upgrades.
George Lazlo, who doesn't use a wheelchair, said he agreed that taxis needed to be more accessible but added regular New Yorkers are already paying high fees for other services.
"If you have bills . . . it's already filled with surcharges," he said. "When does it stop?"
Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, said the cost was "fair and equitable."
"Our transportation systems should open doors, not close them," he said.