If taxi drivers have to operate expensive wheelchair-accessible vehicles, e-hail companies like Uber and Lyft should too, yellow cabbies argue.
About 250 yellow taxi drivers, disability advocates and elected officials gathered on the steps of city hall to demand for more regulations of the e-hail industry, specifically calling on the city to require companies like Uber and Lyft to adopt wheel-chair accessible vehicles.
“I’ve been seeing how convenient Uber is and I’d like to take it,” says Namel Norris, a Bronx resident and hip hop artist who uses a wheelchair. “But I feel like I’m being discriminated against because their cars don’t have ramps for wheelchair access.”
Fifty percent of the yellow cab fleet, or about 7,000 vehicles, must be wheelchair accessible by 2020, as set under a 2013 agreement set between then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Spinal Association. But the accessible cabs are more expensive and use more gas, which cabbies say is just an additional burden as e-hails gobble up the industry.
“With an already existing mandate for yellow cabs and green cabs” said Queens Assemblyman David Weprin at the rally, organized by the Gotham lobbying firm and the advocacy group New Yorkers for Equal Transportation Access, “it only makes sense that ridesharing companies, like Uber and Lyft, do what they must do provide equal access to our neighbors with disabilities.”
Uber, which now has 27,928 vehicles in New York City, boasts that it serves 4,000 trips per month through UberWAV, a feature that connects users with disabilities to the city’s wheelchair-accessible Boro Taxis with an average five- to seven-minute wait time.
“We are always innovating and aiming to improve our options, including UberWAV,” said Uber Spokeswoman Alix Anfang. “The public should beware that medallion owners’ goal is to protect the value of their medallions, not to improve New York City’s transportation system.”
Allan Fromberg, a spokesman at the Taxi and Limousine Commission, said the agency will have a new accessibility proposal for all for-hire vehicles, including Uber and Lyft, in the “near future.”
“The TLC is currently developing a proposal through a reasonable process, based very specifically on the dynamics of the for-hire vehicle sector that will bring accessibility to that sector so that all New Yorkers can enjoy an accessible ride,” Fromberg said.