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Sunday, April 21, 2013

NYC Taxi Service: Bloomberg as Bigot

New York City taxi service is unique and in many cases reflects the culture of the city itself. If you use a wheelchair NYC taxi service is on par with Third World countries. It is uniformly bad--bad as in biblically bad. Taxi drivers as a group are uniformly hostile to any person with a disability. A special disdain exists if you use a wheelchair or have a guide dog and exhibit the temerity to hail a cab. Lots of tricks are employed, required really, to get a taxi in NYC. My friend Steve Kuusisto who uses a guide dog gets hotel doormen to hail a cab for him. I too have used this ploy. I prefer to ask a well dressed man or woman to hail a cab for me. I wait in hiding between parked cars. When the taxi stops I emerge and grab the door so the taxis cannot pull away. I have been cursed at, screamed at, and been called a bastard in many different languages. Gee, I get the feeling I am not a valued customer.

NYC taxi driver hostility has not changed much in the last twenty years. On the rare instance I hail a taxi I assume the driver will be hostile. Taxi driver hostility directed at people with a disability is significantly worse in my opinion. The increased hostility stems from the Bloomberg administration public and baseless opposition to making the taxi fleet, the so called taxi of tomorrow, wheelchair accessible.  Bloomberg has made some outlandish statements that are devoid of reality. My favorite was Bloomberg's suggestion that hailing cab from the street was too dangerous for a person that used a wheelchair. I also heard Bloomberg state it was too costly to make the taxis accessible. Worse yet, taxis would be heavier and less fuel efficient. Bloomberg noted taxi drivers in accessible taxis would be very far away from the passenger and would lose out on tips. None of Bloomberg's statements made to date have a foundation in truth. If you doubt me I suggest you read pretty much anything Simi Linton has written. She has spear-headed the opposition to Bloomberg and earned my utmost respect. Go Simi go! 

This morning I was surfing the internet and came across the following: http://www.accessibledispatch.com/ This site is fantasy land. It is so preposterous I do not even know where to begin. Accessible Dispatch is a slick little site. If you had never been to NYC or hailed a taxi in any city in the world one could think hey this is cool. Phrases such a "the city awaits you" and "its about inclusion" are highlighted on the welcome page. Under How it works is the following: "Once our service is requested, we will dispatch one of New York City's wheelchair accessible taxicabs directly to your pick up location in Manhattan. Accessible Dispatch is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and requires absolutely no advanced reservations, although you may place an advance service order if you so wish. There are currently 233 yellow wheelchair accessible taxicabs operating in the city of New York". A person that uses a wheelchair can send a text, phone call, use an app or order a taxi on line. Here is what the website and Bloomberg gloss over. There are over 23,000 taxis in New York City. 233 are accessible. The odds of finding an accessible taxi going by you are less than 2% In Bloomberg logic what is the best way to address this gross inequity? Create a dispatch service. Really? Somehow I do not feel ever so special. 

Imagine this: You need a cab. It is April. It is Friday at 6:30PM. A huge thunderstorm is approaching. It is windy and cold. You are near Madison Square Garden and the Knicks are playing. Taxi after taxi is blowing by you. And what does the Bloomberg administration suggest you do? Call or text for a taxi. How long will one wait? Um, till hell freezes over. Honestly, think about this scenario. Really think hard. Consider the ADA was passed into law 22 years ago. You use a wheelchair and according to the Federal Government have the same civil rights as all those bipedal people with their hands up hailing a taxi. Taxi after taxi stops for bipedal people. What are we people who use a wheelchair supposed to do? Call or text for a taxi? Use an app? Give me a break. Have you ever tried to use 311? Good luck with an endless chain of menus that go nowhere.  What gets me the most is the leap in logic made by the Bloomberg administration. Who uses a wheelchair? Meek jobless wenches such as myself happy for any handout the almighty bipedal humans will dole out. Our lives cannot compare to the honorable Mayor Bloomberg. And yes there I go again. The bitter cripple with a chip on my shoulder who wants to takeout all his anger out on others. What is not considered is where that anger is coming from. Could it be that I get the shaft every time I try to hail a taxi, get on a plane or a train? Could it be that my civil rights are violated virtually every time I go outside my home? This is where my anger stems from--commonplace and socially sanctioned bias. The word used to describe the sort of civil rights violations I experience is bigotry. Am I mad? You bet your ass I am. My anger has nothing to do with my paralysis or use of a wheelchair. My anger does not come from some pathological form of narcissism. It is never all about me. It is about the next person with a disability and the fervent wish that person does not encounter the same needless social and architectural barriers I had to dismantle. 

Addendum: Please see comments for correction from Taxis for All director. 

45 comments:

Melanie Suzanne Gerber said...

Civil rights for all! Your post reminds me of a story about an African American college student who was ignored when trying to hail a cab.

Bunch of crap!

EM said...

there are something like 13,273 yellow taxis not 23,000. with 233 wc acc vehicles taxis are 1.7% WC acc. There are about 30 out of 40,000 For-Hire-Vehicles (Limos, black cars & liveries).
Edith Prentiss,
Chair, Taxis For All

william Peace said...

EM, Thank you very much for the detailed corrections.

Matthew Smith said...

He sounds a lot like our mayor, Boris Johnson - when he took office in 2008 he cancelled all the access-related upgrades to various London rail stations except for those directly related to the Olympics. I believe all the London black cabs are accessible (they are large and made for easy access), although drivers refusing to stop or driving away is not unknown - private hire vehicles (minicabs) often aren't, especially if you can't transfer.

william Peace said...

Matthew, In my experience London black cabs are all accessible. Not sure about minicabs. My experience with London cab drivers is almost 100% positive. Only down side is price. Taxi service is very expensive.

Daljeet Kaur said...

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Shannon said...

I was really hoping for a 100% accessible fleet of taxis in NYC. I used to live there, and still go there from time to time (would love to live there again, but the rents are too high). My taxi-taking experiences there are limited - I used the bus or just pushed the chair everywhere. The first time I hailed a cab, I got the ride but the driver actually asked me if I was taking the chair with me. Many years later (not in the city) I called a cab to my house, and the driver asked the same question - he looked very relieved when he saw my teenaged son come out of the house.

Another time, I, my elderly aunt, and my son who was a small child at the time were trying to get a taxi from Radio City to the train station. It was a cold day. No taxi would stop. So we just walked, rather than wait for a bus.

Drivers missing out on tips because the passenger is too far away? That's just ridiculous. Would never happen.

Never had a problem getting a cab outside of train stations or airports -I guess because they are just waiting there.

The only accessible taxi I've been in was in Minneapolis. It was great.

Shannon said...

Does the mayor think the driver is also going to miss out on getting paid because the passenger is too far away?

Comment sections under articles about the NYC accessible taxi issue usually include someone without a disability saying they wish they could call a cab and get door-to-door service from the comfort of their home. This assumes the person with a disability is calling a taxi from home. What about when they are out on the street, perhaps in bad weather?

Lillian said...

I cannot identify with a disability, but I feel for you.I am just a black female who experiences taxi hostility for no valid reason.

I live in a luxury building and have my doorman hail cabs for me. Usually this is a pleasant experience. But sometimes, and I don't know why, the male drivers are just verbally abusive.

I won't detail my incident because it's off topic, but the common thread is the hostile taxi driver verbally attacking the passenger. I tweeted the receipt and reported him but I doubt anything will be done. That's why I searched the web and found your blog.

Thanks for sharing your story and I wish you the best.

Lillian said...

@ Melanie Suzanne Gerber - That is very common also. Thanks for mentioning that. I am a black person who has been refused a cab so much that I stopped taking them unless I must.

william Peace said...

Lillian, Your experience as a black woman is directly relevant. The bigotry you experience is no different from what I have experienced as a man with a disability. What I do not get is how taxi drivers have not changed. When the MTA first had wheelchair lifts installed the bus drivers were rude and hostile. Fast forward to today and MTA as a group are as polite as a NYC can possibly be. If bus drivers can change why have taxi drivers remained overwhelmingly hostile?

Sabra Divis said...

You have every right to be mad. That kind of discrimination is just plain wrong. I have never tried calling for a WC accessible cab before, so I have to ask: Do they charge more than the usual cab? If they do, that’s an additional inconvenience and people with disabilities shouldn’t be burdened with additional charges just because they’re disabled.

Sabra Divis

william Peace said...

Sabra, Wheelchair accessible taxis do not charge extra. This would be against the law. What really gets me is how unnecessary the taxi controversy is. Bloomberg is aggressively anti disability and I get a sense he hold grudges and is a petty man. Of course I could be wrong and this is pretty wild speculation. Obviously I have never met the man.

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Ralph Johnson said...

That's right, civil rights must always be protected. Love your blog articles.
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Jason Murphy said...

NYC cabs must be accessible to all, especially for the physically handicapped.
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