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Monday, September 22, 2014

Accessible Taxi 2014 Hearings at Chicago City Hall, Only 163 of the roughly 6,000 taxis in Chicago are accessible - UPDATES

this post on Chicago Accessible Taxi saga will be updated as reliable information is available..

Only 163 of the roughly 6,000 taxis in Chicago are accessible, but the city has a plan to double that number by 2018. (Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chciago Tribune)

article by By Jon Hilkevitch | Chicago Tribune | Sept 22, 2014

Chicago officials are expected to unveil a plan Tuesday to more than double the number of taxicabs that are accessible to people with disabilities by the end of 2018.

The announcement on wheelchair-accessible taxis will be made just hours before a City Council hearing addressing the current shortage.

Only 163 of the roughly 6,000 taxis in Chicago are accessible, according to the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

The Emanuel administration will announce plans to add at least 204 more accessible taxis over the next four years, officials said.

"For many of us, taxis are a necessary means of getting from point A to point B," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, "and more wheelchair-accessible vehicles are a step in the right direction."

By the end of 2018, taxi licensees who own at least 10 medallions will be required to have 10 percent of their fleet made up of wheelchair-accessible vehicles.

Currently, taxi licensees with at least 20 medallions are required to have 5 percent of their fleets made up of wheelchair-accessible vehicles, officials said.

The city requires that existing wheelchair-accessible taxis be replaced by new wheelchair-accessible taxis when the end of their life cycle is reached. That ensures that the number of accessible taxis will not shrink, officials said.

The expansion of fully accessible taxis will be subsidized in part by the city's accessibility fund, which currently contains $3.5 million. The fund is supported by fees paid by the taxi and ride-share industries, under a new city ordinance regulating ride-share services, officials said.

Ride-share companies including Uber X, Lyft and Sidecar have cut into the traditional taxi business by contracting with noncommercial drivers who provide rides in their private vehicles. Customers of the ride-share services use cellphone apps to arrange rides.

Advocates for the disabled community said the planned increase is not enough.

New York's taxi fleet will be 50 percent accessible by 2020, said Gary Arnold, public relations coordinator for Access Living in Chicago.

Tuesday morning at City Hall, taxicab accessibility will be discussed at a joint hearing of the Committee on License and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Human Relations.

Before the hearing, members of the disability community, joined by the heads of the council committees , are scheduled to hold a news conference calling for an increase in the number of accessible taxis in Chicago. They will present strategies for reaching the goal, including mandates, incentives, enforcement and new funding sources, supporters of the initiative said.


Below are excerpts form an article on the Accessible Taxi Hearing at Chicago City Hall
as reported by Andrea V. Watson |  Chicago DEFENDER | Sept 25, 2015

Members of Chicago’s disability community say the low number of accessible taxis is a civil rights issue that must be addressed as soon as possible.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) announced Tuesday that the city is developing a plan to more than double the number of wheelchair accessible taxis by the end of 2018.
Chicago has 6,000 taxis, but only 163 are designed to comfortably accommodate people with a disability, according to according to the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Less than 3% of Chicago’s fleet actually cater to them, whereas New York City will have half of its fleet accessible by 2020. That change is one Chicago should implement as soon as possible, Marca Bristo, president and CEO of Access Living said in a joint hearing of the Committee on License and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Human Relations Tuesday.
Addressing the committee, she said, “If any of you were in a hurry to get to your next meeting, you could walk out on LaSalle Street and hail a cab and be on your way in minutes, but not me or my colleagues here today.”
Bristo said the wait times are typically far too long and said that this issue needs to be looked at and treated as a civil rights issue.
Ronald Antwine is a dispatcher for Central Dispatch, a hotline designed for wheelchair customers who want to request a wheelchair accessible vehicle. He said that the drivers want to help, but there just aren’t enough of them.
“We need more drivers,” said Antwine. “A lot of times, drivers are in route, but tied in traffic.”
People can make a reservation by calling 1-855-WAV-1010. There is also an App called Open Taxi Chicago.
Bristo, along with the members of IMPRUV, Access Living and other advocates want the city to adopt four approaches, all which mirror New York City’s.
She said that half of Chicago’s taxis need to be accessible. To help supplement the cost of purchasing, maintaining or converting wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs), there must be new incentives and subsidies. She said that won’t happen without strict enforcement measures like penalties for drivers who don’t participate and owners who do not meet their mandate. Lastly, a surcharge on taxi rides will help establish a fund to cover those needs.
Under Chicago’s rideshare, or Transportation Network Provider Ordinance, which went into effect at the beginning of September, new mandates were created to increase the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles. The ordinance will also find additional funding sources.
The Rideshare ordinance now requires taxi licensees, who have at least 10 medallions, or vehicles, to also have 10 percent of their vehicles become wheelchair accessible by the end of 2018. The new requirement will help add at least 204 more taxis to the already 163 in the system. A percentage of the cost that owners will be responsible for will be subsidized by the Accessibility Fund. Fees from rideshare and taxi companies pour into that fund. Current wheelchair accessible vehicles will have to be replaced when they can no longer function safely.
Both Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward), who chairs the License and Consumer Protection Committee, and Ald. Ariel Rebroyas (30th Ward), who chairs the Human Relations Committee showed their support at a news conference prior to the joint hearing.
“I’m sure we don’t think about their day-to-day, but we should have some compassion,” said Mitts. “Anything can happen at any given time so that we can be in their situation.”
“This is not my issue or Ald. Mitt’s issue, it is everyone’s issue in the City of Chicago,” said Rebroyas.
The next City Council meeting is Oct. 8 at 10 a.m.
(info will be posted as it is available)

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