Everyone knows how hard it can be to hail a cab in New York City. However, with only 233 taxis in the Big Apple that are capable of holding wheelchairs it’s even more difficult for the disabled. But today a new system will be activated that will allow wheelchair users to arrange a taxi using a smart phone app, the internet, phone, text or by calling 311. Called the “Accessible Dispatch” system the new service involves West Haven, CT-based Metro Taxi and will use GPS data to alert wheelchair accessible cabs of the nearest wheelchair user in need of a ride.
City officials used a 1-year study to determine what could be done to accommodate wheelchair users who have been underserved by taxis. The chairman of the Taxi & Limousine Commission, David Yassky, told the Wall Street Journal that “the sad reality has been that wheelchair users have not been able to use taxi service in New York City. This is a big step toward ending that unfairness”. Wheelchair users who use the app, called Wheels and Wheels and developed by Ride Charge Inc., will be able to watch in real time as cabs drive towards them. Currently Metro Taxi’s contract to run the dispatch system is for two years and during that time the company will find out how popular the program is and how many wheelchair accessible cabs will be needed should the service take off.
As of now the service is strictly for Manhattan but a solution for the boroughs including Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx is being sought. Should the Taxi & Limousine Commission win a court battle over the auction of 2,000 new taxis, they would be able to deploy all of them as wheelchair accessible meaning a 10-fold increase in taxis available to wheelchair users. But for now, at least the wheelchair users in Manhattan can start spreading the news that New York City is leading the way in using technology to help people with disabilities use the transportation system.