Wheelchair accessible taxicabs will be available in the District of Columbia for the first time following action by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). The TPB approved twelve projects, including the accessible cabs, which will improve the access and mobility of persons with disabilities and low-income commuters in the region. As the designated recipient of federal funding under the Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) and New Freedom programs of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the TPB funds these projects.
Currently, none of the D.C.’s 6,500 taxis can serve passengers with wheelchairs who require a ramp or lift to get into a vehicle. Most of the neighboring jurisdictions have accessible taxi service, including Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County.
“As result of these endorsed projects, D.C. will no longer be one of the few major U.S. cities without accessible taxi service,” stated City of Alexandria Councilmember Tim Lovain, who chaired the TPB Human Service Transportation Coordination Task Force, which developed priorities for the project selection process.
$1 million in funding will help three companies purchase seven accessible taxicabs, such as mini-vans, which will change the number of accessible taxicabs in the District from zero to 21. Funding was also provided to support a centralized dispatch system that enables passengers needing a wheelchair accessible cab to call only one number and the closest available cab will be dispatched. The City of Chicago uses this dispatching model for its successful accessible taxi program.
Another $1.5 million in funds will support escorted transportation for people with disabilities, training special needs populations on how to use the bus and rail system, low-interest car loans and other transportation services for low-income and disabled individuals.
TPB Chair and D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson said “I am proud that the TPB was one of the first Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to take on a new role in human service transportation coordination and received an award from the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) for its efforts.”
The accomplishment of funding accessible taxis was due to joint support from The D.C. Taxicab Commission and the D.C. Office of Disability Rights.
Leon J. Swain, Jr. D.C. Taxicab Commission, Chairperson, stated "providing accessible taxi service to the citizens of the District of Columbia D.C. and it's visitors is one of our top priorities" and commended the TPB action today as being "a real victory for D.C. and the entire region". The D.C. Taxicab Commission provided a portion of the required matching funds to D.C. taxicab companies.
D.C. Office of Disability Rights Director Eve Hill also applauded the approval for funding for accessible cabs, “accessible taxi service is the final frontier for people with disabilities” and “delivering this right to service helps everyone.”
The two Federal Transit Administration programs provide approximately $1 million per program per year for four years (Federal FY06 – FY09) for services in the Washington Metropolitan area. JARC provides capital and operating funding for services that improve access to jobs for low-income persons. New Freedom provides capital and operating funding for transit and paratransit services and improvements for persons with disabilities that are new and go beyond those required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Click here for information brochure and presentation on JARC and New Freedom projects. (Item 8: June 18, 2008)