The city of Minneapolis may be adding 40 new accessible vehicles to its taxi fleet.
Yellow Cab and Airport/Town Taxi have proposed adding 40 wheelchair-accessible vehicles and phasing them into the fleet beginning January 1, 2002. The Public Safety and Regulatory Services (PS and RS) Committee of the City Council has held three hearings to gauge the need for additional accessible transit alternatives for people with disabilities. The committee has determined that adding these vehicles to the fleet will allow people with disabilities more spontaneity in their transportation options, and will assist in providing a back-up system for Metro Mobility when rides are denied based on capacity constraints.
The PS and RS Committee has authorized 40 additional taxi licenses. Three of the licenses will go to make Rainbow Taxi’s three current accessible vehicles permanent. (These vehicles have been authorized under a demonstration project until this time.) Yellow Cab has been awarded 17 licenses and Airport/Town Taxi will get the 20 remaining licenses.
Yellow Cab has taken eight of the vehicles recently retired from Metro Mobility service and will be using them to transport some customers with disabilities through a contract with Hennepin County. Both Yellow Cab and Airport/Town Taxi are looking at obtaining wheelchair accessible minivans to fill out the complement of new vehicles.
For those wheelchair users who haven’t used taxis until now, this new transit option will provide more flexibility in going to work, school, church, medical appointments, and stores. It will also involve a learning curve for new taxi users and for the drivers as well.
Many people with disabilities are used to Metro Mobility fares which are subsidized up to approximately $16 per ride, with the rider actually paying $2.50 during peak hours and $2 during off-peak hours. Metro Mobility does not permit the tipping of drivers.
These new accessible vehicles will be an integrated part of the regular taxi service provided in the city of Minneapolis. That means the fares charged will be based on the meter. It is $2 when the flag drops, and $1.60 per mile. Then most customers tip 15 to 20 percent on the full fare. These facts are important when creating a monthly budget for transportation in preparation to use this new service.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a driver’s time is money to him, so customers who are ready to go when the taxi appears at their door are likely to win favor with drivers who are unfamiliar with serving wheelchair users.
Drivers, too, will need to learn how to safely secure wheelchairs in a timely manner. Customers who give patient and courteous directions on how to accomplish this will be likely to receive good service in the future.
This initiative was controversial in the taxi community because drivers feel that the addition of so many new licenses will devalue their current licenses. Drivers also feel these new licenses will create more unwanted competition. In addition, business has decreased due to the economy and the events of September 11. People with disabilities and the taxi providers will have to work together to make this initiative a success.
Clara Schmit-Gonzalez, Assistant Director of Licenses and Consumer Services with the Department of Regulatory Services, says she is eager to work with the disability community and taxi providers to develop guidelines to ensure that people with disabilities are being served adequately by this new transit option.
This proposal goes before the Minneapolis City Council for a final vote on Friday, December 14. Residents of Minneapolis are encouraged to call their City Council members to express their support for this initiative.
Residents may call (612) 673-2200 to find out who their City Council member is, and to express their appreciation for this new transit alternative.