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Disabled New Yorkers Challenge TLC To Add More Accessible Cabs

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By Gary Anthony Ramsay
May 4, 2005

The Taxi and Limousine Commission is moving ahead with plans to upgrade the city's fleet of cabs. But one segment of the riding public says the agency may have its priorities crossed. NY1's Gary Anthony Ramsay has the story.

When Jean Ryan ponders a trip, she almost never considers a cab.

"For me to try to go out and hail one is folly," said Ryan.

That's because for her and 65,000 handicapped New Yorkers, the task of taking a taxi is taxing at best.

"I have to either plan on just taking the bus or riding on the street," said Jean Ryan of the "Taxis for All" movement.

So Ryan joined other physically challenged pedestrians at a Taxi and Limousine Commission public hearing Wednesday. The agency is moving to upgrade city cabs with high-tech satellite global positioning systems. It's gear that would bring credit card use, traffic information and vehicle tracking to all drivers and dispatchers, and television, route information and advertising to passengers. It could even help locate lost personal items.

But some handicapped riders NY1 spoke with say the TLC's priorities are misplaced.

"What good is an information screen or credit card machine or other high-tech feature, if we can't even get into the cab in the first place?" Ryan asked at the hearing.

Right now there are 29 wheelchair accessible cabs in the city in a fleet of more than 12,700. Even though that is four times the higher than the number last year. It still means that New Yorkers who are wheelchair disabled would have a 1 in 400 shot of getting one of those taxis under the best of circumstances. During rush hour it's one in a 1,000.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission says it will add 54 more wheelchair ready medallions next year and progress on the issue is being made.

"We still have a lot of work," said Matthew Daus of the TLC. "There are issues with the durability of the vehicles, the cost of the vehicles, but as this administration and the TLC has shown before we're able to overcome some of these obstacles and we're on the path to make sure that this happens over the next several years."

The TLC says it should start introducing those high-tech GPS cabs by November, though people like Jean Ryan would rather see more low-tech cabs she could get into first.

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