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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bloomberg Rails Against Accessible Taxis

I have never been impressed with Mayor Bloomberg. But in the past week I have gone from unimpressed to deeply annoyed if not angry. It is clear to me that Bloomberg is desperate to keep the inaccessible taxi of tomorrow as the NYC taxi fleet. If he is successful I will be unable to hail a cab in NYC for the next 10-15 years. Bloomberg words, his anti disability rhetoric, is so far off base now it is hard to fathom. Someone needs to tell the man the ADA in this case is clear cut--transportation must be accessible to people with disabilities. The Feds made that clear but Bloomberg failed to take note Bloomberg I suspect may be trying to play good cop bad cop with David Yassky chairman of the NYC TLC. This week Yassky wrote that he does not think the TLC is violating the ADA in spite of the fact less than 2% of taxis are accessible. He did however acknowledge city officials "cannot ignore the possibility that a court order will at some point require a significant portion of the taxi fleet to convert to accessible vehicles". In stark contrast Bloomberg has waged a media campaign against accessible taxis. His words and actions are objectionable and insulting. He makes it sound as though if taxis are required to be accessible the entire NYC taxi system will collapse.

So what has Bloomberg said this week? Among the low lights:

The dispatch system will work. He expects people with a disability to call the TLC who will dispatch one of the 231 accessible cabs in the city. Bloomberg thinks 231 accessible cabs is adequate and that a dispatched cab will arrive promptly. Give me a break. This might work in the middle of the day in August when the city is empty but I would not expect a cab to arrive promptly if at all on an ordinary day. Forget trying to get a dispatched cab during rush hour, at the end of an event, or on a busy weekend.

The suspension system on the accessible cabs is inferior and dangerous. Accidents to non disabled people are inevitable and the city will be deluged with law suits. According to Bloomberg "The suspension is a lot worse and its harder to get up and pay the cab driver and get in and out and that sort of thing". When I read this I almost laughed. The issue of safety was used for decades to bar people with a disability from schools, buses, planes, trains, concerts etc. This new twist is preposterous. The ADA is clear--public transportation must be accessible

New York City is unlike any other city in the country. Bloomberg said "it just doesn't work in a city like ours, and I don't know that the U.S. Attorney General understands how people live in the city and the traffic patterns and that sort of thing". Traffic patterns? I think a grid system is pretty basic. And how I wonder is it that other cities with far more complex traffic patterns have accessible cabs and cabbies that actually stop for people with a disability. London and Dublin are two such cities.

The passenger in accessible cabs sits far away from the driver. Tips will be radically smaller because of the distance. According to Bloomberg "When the cabs are big enough for a wheelchair a lot of cabdrivers say that the passengers sit farther away and they can't establish a dialogue and they get lower tips". The distance is also a grave danger as well. Bloomberg maintains "You know, there's so much more pace between the backseat and the divider, you're going to have people getting hurt". A dialogue with a NYC cab driver? Who is Bloomberg trying to kid? As for the size, Bloomberg makes it sound as though the accessible cab is the size of a tractor trailer. Preposterous.

I saved the best comment for last. Bloomberg: "You can't take a wheelchair out into the street and try and hail a cab". What? Exactly where does Bloomberg expect the human beings sitting in a wheelchair to hail a cab? I am sure he ever seen a person navigate the streets of New York City using a wheelchair. I am in the street all the time. When I park my car mid block and walk to a muni-meter, fail at hailing a cab, go an entire block in the street because a curb cut is blocked or not present, avoiding construction etc.

I hope Bloomberg is desperate. If history is any indication, he sounds like former Mayor Koch. The closer the city came to being forced to make the buses accessible the more obnoxious Koch became. And Koch was the typical New Yorker--sharp witted, opinionated, and wrong. Koch's anti disability rhetoric was at least creative in retrospect. Bloomberg;s anti disability rhetoric lacks any creativity, substance and relies on antiquated bigotry. Bloomberg is very much out of touch with disability rights. Indeed, I doubt the man even knows what the term means. I suspect our billionaire mayor's mind set is stuck in a charity model of disability where laws like the ADA can be easily ignored. I sure hop the Feds will remind him that people like me have civil rights.


Carrie said...

This is terribly disappointing. I'm not a New Yorker but love to travel and going to NYC has always been my dream. I've been too overwhelmed by the logistics of getting around the city to plan a trip; knowing transportation was accessible would make it so much easier to make it a reality. I can only imagine the frustration of those living in the city.

Shannon said...

I have been reading the news on this issue and it is very disappointing. I am a former NYC resident and would love to live there again should I be able to find an appropriate (wheelchair accessible) apartment at an affordable rent. When I visit there, I guess I will just have to take the bus or push the chair, unless I happen to find one of those 200 or so accessible taxis. Have never tried the subway in a wheelchair.

Well yes, actually, you can "take a wheelchair" (and the person in it) into the street and "try" to hail a taxi. I have done so, with mixed results. A few have actually stopped and helped me in, although one of those asked me if I was taking the chair with me??? I've had the most luck getting one to the airport when there are a bunch of taxis waiting in front of Grand Central. One of the bunch is willing to step up and take me. On occasions when I have been accompanied by an able-bodied, strong-looking (male) person, taxis suddenly don't mind stopping for me.

I mentioned this issue to my cousin the other day. My cousin knows (because of me) the problems people with disabilities face. Yet her response was "it's not fair to all those taxi companies to have to make all the taxis accessible." All those taxi companies? It's the TLC.

Taxi problem notwithstanding, I still find NYC easier to get around in a wheelchair than the suburbs without a car.

James IV said...

I have made my last trip up with my wife to the U.S. Open Tennis with our 12 friends. I can spend my money somewhere else.