Last Friday, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission launched a dispatch system in conjunction with Metro Taxi Connecticut that will provide Manhattan taxis to disabled individuals; no advance reservation is necessary and the taxicabs can be called at any time of the day.
Handicapped passengers can be picked up from one of the 233 wheelchair-accessible taxis in Manhattan and shuttled to their desired destination in any of the five boroughs, as well as Westchester and Nassau counties and the three regional airports.
Once an accessible dispatch system order is received, the closest driver can accept the order. If the job is not accepted within two minutes, the dispatch is automatically transferred to the next closest driver.
Drivers are paid by the accessible dispatch system for their travel expenses to the pick-up point, so the traveler pays only the standard taxi meter fare for his or her ride.
“This is an opportunity to initially provide and ultimately expand upon a much needed service to the disability community,” said Bill Scalzi, the president of Metro Taxi Connecticut.
Steinhardt freshman Vivian Wang, who travels in a wheelchair after bunion surgery last June, supports the idea.
“It seems like a good idea for people who really need it to go longer distances,” Wang said.
For Wang, the initiative is a progressive step for a city that is difficult to naviagate.
“I don’t think that accommodations for handicapped people in New York are the best,” Wang said. “A lot of buildings don’t have a button I can push to open doors myself… There are also a few cross walks I can’t use because the curb is uneven or square or too steep for me to get on myself.”
Some NYU students who are still wary consider punctuality as a main concern of the new system.
“When I call our Safe-Ride, it takes at least 15 minutes to arrive, how will this be any better?” CAS freshman Brittany Briddell said.
Others note the traffic in New York City as being a major factor in decreasing the efficiency of the new dispatch system.
Allan Fromberg, deputy commissioner for Public Affairs for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, cited past successful Access Dispatch rides as reasons for confidence in the system.
“The program has delivered several hundred successful rides in a test phase, and we are ready and eager for many more.” Fromberg said.
Handicapped riders can access the system by calling 311, calling the dispatch center directly at (646) 599-9999, texting a request to (646) 400-0789, using the new mobile app Wheels on Wheels or ordering online at www.accessibledispatch.com.
Kyra Stephenson-Valley is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]
In the previous version of the article, WSN incorrectly reported handicapped riders can access the system by calling the dispatch center directly at (646) 400-0789. In fact, the number is (646) 599-9999. WSN regrets the error.