Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities, Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the State of Rhode Island debuted wheelchair accessible taxis. The Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers also provided support to help bring these vehicles to the state.
The new taxis are Dodge Caravan mini-vans that have been specially modified by Viewpoint Mobility to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters in the rear compartment. The vehicles will operate just like any other taxi, greatly improving access to transportation for the mobility impaired. Passengers using wheelchairs or scooters will board the taxi via a ramp that extends from the rear of the vehicle. The taxis cost $36,744.00 each and were funded in part by over $380,000 in New Freedom grants. Seven private taxi companies provided partial matching funds to purchase these vehicles.
Although all taxi companies must accommodate passengers with disabilities who are able to use a sedan-type taxi, including allowing service animals, and requiring drivers to stow mobility devices like walkers and foldable wheelchairs for a customer, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require any special accessibility features for all taxis. The New Freedom grant program helps communities provide transportation service and accommodations “above and beyond” what the ADA requires, and will now bring more accessible taxi service to many Rhode Islanders and visitors.
Airport Taxi, Big Daddy Taxi, Corporate Taxi, Economy Cab, Orange Cab, Rainbow Cab and Valley Cab have purchased the new vehicles. The taxis will serve seventeen communities, including Providence, Newport and Woonsocket. T.F. Green Airport in Warwick will also be served. Standard Rhode Island taxi rates will apply to any service provided with these vehicles.