New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) partnered with the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission to provide $2.25 cab rides to paratransit passengers.
The 90-day pilot is part of a plan to utilize the city's taxi system to cut costs of the state's federally-mandated Access-a-Ride program. The program will use only yellow cabs, and serve riders in Manhattan below 96th St. since that's where the yellow taxis are most available, said Deirdre Parker, press liaison, MTA.
The transit agency worked with JP Morgan Chase to develop the pre-paid Chase Visa debit card that passengers will use to pay for their trips. After receiving their cards in the mail, Access-a-Ride participants simply activate the cards by calling a phone number set up by the agency. As soon as they activate the cards, they can begin using them for their regularly scheduled trips, Parker explained. Riders then mail a check for the $2.25 owed for each trip, and the agency automatically renews the card for another two weeks.
"We realize that not all disabled people are the same," Parker said. "One person might, for instance, be going to work five times a week. Another person might be going to dialysis three times a week. This is another option that we're giving to customers that's cost effective and more convenient for them."
The option to take a cab instead of one of Access-a-Ride's sedans or vans is not available to wheelchair users. Access-a-Ride will still offer vans and sedans for riders who may want extra assistance or who use a wheelchair and still need a van.
In the future, the program may be able to accommodate wheelchair users. As New York City works through the final stages of a program to redesign its yellow taxi, it recently announced the three leading proposals with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
One proposal, from the Turkish car manufacturer Karsan, is a wheelchair-accessible concept: the "Taxi of Tomorrow." The next step is to evaluate the proposers' "best and final offers" early in 2011, said David Yassky, commissioner, New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission.
Approximately 400 Access-a-Ride participants are eligible to enroll in the pilot program.
MTA anticipates saving nearly 17 percent in Access-a-Ride program costs, or 70 percent per trip, by allowing customers to use the yellow cabs. The average ride in a vehicle is $49.00. The average taxi ride costs about $15.00, Parker said.
Yassky said that potentially all 13,237 taxicabs in the system will be used in the program, which is one of the advantages of providing participants with a debit card that can be used in any taxi.
The program doesn't pose any cost to the New York TLC, Yassky added. "The city government pays a significant portion of the costs for the Access-A-Ride program, so the benefit to the TLC is to help the MTA save on the considerable per-ride costs for the many individuals who do not require roll-in accessible service....a group that includes as many as 75 percent of all certified Access-A-Ride users."