City Of New York And Disability Advocates Announce Landmark Settlement To Increase Taxicab Accessibility

Friday, September 19, 2014 - 14:27

Four disability rights organizations, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) and the Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities (MOPD) announced today that they have reached an historic settlement agreement to phase-in wheelchair-accessible yellow medallion taxicabs so that fifty percent will be accessible to men, women, and children who use wheelchairs and scooters by 2020.  The agreement is the first of its kind in the country and would make New York’s yellow taxi fleet the most accessible in the nation and one of the most disability friendly in the world.

The agreement calls for the TLC to propose rules that, if approved following a public hearing to be held next year, will require yellow taxi fleets to replace, via attrition, at least 50 percent of taxicab vehicles with wheelchair- accessible vehicles by 2020.  New York City taxicabs typically have a lifespan of three to five years, depending on how they are operated, and the 2,000 new taxicab medallion licenses that will be issued over the next several years (200 of which have already been auctioned) will count toward the 50 percent goal. The rulemaking process will determine how the remaining number will be achieved.

Currently, only 231 out of the City’s 13,237 taxicabs are wheelchair accessible. In June 2012, the City established a dispatch program enabling wheelchair users to request accessible taxicabs via 311.  “The dispatch program has helped thousands of wheelchair users get a taxi, but it is not enough. Today’s agreement will bring us a truly accessible taxi fleet,” said David Yassky, taxi commissioner under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Assuming the proposed disability rules are adopted by the Taxi and Limousine Commission following a public hearing, the settlement, upon approval by the federal court, will resolve a federal class action lawsuit filed in January 2011 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  The suit was brought by a coalition of people with disabilities, including Taxis for All Campaign, United Spinal Association, 504 Democratic Club, and Disabled in Action.

James Weisman, general counsel for Plaintiff United Spinal, added that “this is going to save the City tens of millions a year in paratransit costs.  Making cabs accessible is not just the sensible thing to do for the many New Yorkers and visitors to the City who use wheelchairs, it’s fiscally responsible.”

The matter is titled Taxis for All Campaign v. Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC), and was formerly captioned Noel v. TLC.  Under the settlement terms, the TLC agrees to propose rules that, once approved following a public hearing to be held next year, will require the yellow taxi fleet to phase in wheelchair-accessible vehicles, as non-accessible taxis are retired, reaching a 50 percent wheelchair-accessible fleet by 2020.

The disability groups are represented by Sid Wolinsky, Julia Pinover, and Kara Janssen of the nonprofit legal center Disability Rights Advocates and Daniel Brown and Sarah Aberg of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.  The City is represented by Robin Binder and Michelle Goldberg-Cahn of the Office of the Corporation Counsel of New York City.