NYC Mayor Proposes Taxi Surcharge to Fund Accessible Cabs

    NEW YORK, NY (TIP): The de Blasio administration is proposing a 30-cent surcharge on all yellow and street-hail livery taxi rides as part of a plan to make half of New York City’s taxi fleet wheelchairaccessible by 2020, according to city and taxi officials. The proposal, the subject of a Taxi and Limousine Commission hearing next month, calls for the surcharge to begin in 2015.

    Officials said the added revenue would be used to convert both yellow taxis and green livery cabs to wheelchair-accessible vehicles, which are typically more expensive, beginning in 2016. Five cents of the surcharge will go to drivers to offset costs, officials said, in part to cover the additional training needed to operate accessible cabs. “We are turning a corner here,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement, adding that advocates had “fought for years to secure basic fairness in transportation.”

    Last year, the Bloomberg administration said it had settled a major class-action lawsuit which argued that the city was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because only about 230 of the city’s more than 13,000 yellow taxis were accessible to wheelchair users. But a hearing on the proposed changes was postponed after de Blasio took office, a move that the plaintiffs described as a breach of the agreement, writing to a federal judge that it might be necessary to “reinstate discovery and the litigation.”

    On Feb. 27, the judge set a timetable for the publication of new rules and the public hearing that is required to accompany them. A lawyer for the plaintiffs agreed to the new schedule after the administration offered assurances that it was committed to making 50 percent of the fleet accessible by 2020. A spokesman for the Mayor said the surcharge would not end in 2020. Reacting to the new proposal, Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said that while the group supports the expansion of wheelchairaccessible cabs, a surcharge “keeps drivers more in debt but creates the illusion to the rider that the driver is earning more.”

    In 2012, taxi fares were raised by an average of about 17 percent per trip, the first major increase in eight years. David Pollack, the executive director of the Committee for Taxi Safety, a group of medallion owners and taxi leasing agents, said the modern taxi landscape was “a shopping center of surcharges,” calling the proposal “stupid.” The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, whose members operate more than 5,200 yellow medallions, said that while the rules were “not perfect,” they would go “a long way toward providing certainty and detail to an accessibility plan.”

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