New York Taxi and Limousine Commission announced on Wednesday, Jan. 24, that it would be expanding its Accessible Dispatch Program. The program, which offers a 24/7 service connecting riders with wheelchair accessible taxis via telephone or smartphone app, had operated only in Manhattan, but will now be accepting pick-ups and drop-offs in all five of New York City’s boroughs.
The TLC transport manager says that the expansion is huge for New Yorkers with disabilities. “We know that over 80 percent of people with disabilities live in the outer boroughs, so it opens taxis up to a whole new pool of people,” he says. “You could only get picked up in Manhattan before, but it could take you anywhere in the five boroughs. But if you’re home and you miss a ride, or somebody doesn’t come for you, you have no options. There are no other taxi options if you live in Brooklyn, for example, where I live.”
He says that the program is not just expanding, but improving. “It’s a better service, there’s a better app now, better technology and a new call center. So there are a lot of programmatic improvements as well.”
“With dispatch, the waits are down to less than fifteen minutes, [and] some of them are as low as three minutes in Manhattan. When it first started, it would be an hour, or never,” says Weisman. “So it’s gotten dramatically better, and if we ever get to 50 percent, it will be even better.” A big part of the reduction in wait times for accessible taxis has been because drivers have begun to see the benefits of providing accessible service.
“A lot of what we’ve done at the TLC is very driver focused, getting drivers to engage more: new technologies are driver friendly, drivers are getting incentives to pick up passengers in wheelchairs,” says Elegudin. “We’re getting a lot more driver engagement with the new changes we’ve made. It’s really gone from where years ago drivers were not accepting trips, or trying to get out of providing accessible service. Now, drivers are more welcoming and understanding that there are significant trips and money to be made.”