NYC Will Try Out Taxis to Provide Access-A-Ride Service

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The Access-A-Ride program, which serves New Yorkers who can't use subways and buses, has been eating up an increasingly large chunk of the MTA budget. A new pilot program announced today could help bend this curve. Graph: Office of the State Comptroller

In a bid to cut costs and improve transit service for New Yorkers with disabilities, the MTA and the Taxi and Limousine Commission will pilot a program to have yellow cabs provide Access-A-Ride service. The program could benefit everyone who rides subways and buses too — if it proves effective at curbing the cost of Access-A-Ride, the federally-mandated service which has been eating up an increasingly large portion of the MTA’s budget and putting strain on other aspects of the transit system.

Photo: bitchcakesny/Flickr
About 75 percent of Access-A-Ride customers don't need to travel in lift-equipped vans, according to the MTA. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/bitchcakes/4279613101/##bitchcakesny/Flickr##

Instead of scheduling Access-A-Ride vehicles to pick them up and drop them off, the 400 customers in the pilot will be able to go out, hail a cab, and pay the equivalent of a subway fare using a pre-paid debit card. The participating customers don’t need wheelchair lift-equipped Access-A-Ride vans (about 75 percent of Access-a-Ride customers can travel without them), and pick-ups and drop-offs will be limited to Manhattan below 96th Street, where yellow cabs are fairly ubiquitous.

After the first 90 days, the MTA will evaluate whether to continue the pilot and expand it to more customers. If successful, future expansions of the program could incorporate livery cars and black cars, to reach areas of the city where taxis are less available.

The MTA estimates that the taxi program will save $35 per trip, and over the course of one year the 400-passenger pilot could save in the range of $2 million. The total cost of the Access-A-Ride program is now about $450 million annually, and citywide about 150,000 people are enrolled in it.

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