(Photo by Philip Bennett at Taxis for All.)
For about a year, Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been trying to help disabled people get access to city taxis, but wrangling between the city and taxi drivers has botched up the mayor’s plan.
In theory, a disabled person should be able to call 311 and get a taxi dispatcher to send a handicapped-accessible taxi. But the system hasn’t worked. Taxi drivers have said that they don’t want to check their city-issued Blackberries for calls to pick up a person who is handicapped. The drivers claim that it’s distracting, and it probably is. (Though that doesn’t seem to keep them from yakking on their cell phones all day.)
But members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance say that isn’t the real reason the program hasn’t worked…
The Alliance says handicapped-accessible cabs aren’t available for dispatching because they’re all waiting for fares at JFK.
The city allows the special cabs to cut to the front of the taxi line at the airport, and according to taxi drivers, the wheelchair-accessible cabs take advantage of that and hang out at JFK all day, forcing other drivers to wait for hours in line – and leaving disabled people in the rest of the city unable to get a car when they call 311.
“Wheelchair users had given up on central dispatch because taxis just wouldn’t come,” said Jean Ryan, vice chair of the Taxis For All Campaign, a coalition that advocates
for wheelchair-accessible taxis and car services, in a statement.
As of yesterday, the mayor agreed to change the way the system is run.
The city will scrap the Blackberries and go for a GPS dispatching