Judge: new Gotham cabs must have wheelchair access

Agreeing with the Obama Department of Justice, a federal judge has ruled that New York City cannot create more taxicab medallions unless they are for wheelchair-accessible vehicles [AP]. The administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg says full wheelchair conversion of the taxicab fleet, as demanded by litigants, would cost on the order of $900 million over five years. It would prefer to serve wheelchair patrons through a network that could summon specialized cabs on demand, but some of its adversaries dismiss that alternative as smacking of separate-but-equal.

Lawyer and author Philip K. Howard points out in a NYDN op-ed that the relief demanded

would require, over the next five years, that all 13,000 New York City medallion cabs be replaced by cabs that cost about $15,000 more – basically to have their frames cut and then stretched to accommodate a ramp and room inside for a person in a wheelchair. …

The larger taxis are generally about 800 pounds heavier and use about 20% more fuel – raising costs and polluting the air. Stretched taxis have harsher suspensions, and are therefore less comfortable for most users, as well as more dangerous (because they are less maneuverable and harder to stop).

See also NY1, WSJ, NYDN (DoJ weighs in on plaintiffs’ side); Matthew Daus/NYT; NYDN (editorial backing mandate), NY Post (opposing mandate); Capital New York (city files notice of appeal). More: Bader. Update Mar. 21: stayed pending appeal.


  • Why not replace the entire fleet with ambulances? Troublesome passengers could be strapped down (or jettisoned out the back if need be), and even the homebound could recline in comfort! Huzzah! And what of the disabled who cannot use a wheelchair? Surely their stretcher or iron lung requires accommodation at public expense.

  • I believe those medallions are selling for 1 million a piece now…three different, and disliked groups, all fighting with each other: entrenched oligopoly, trial lawyers, inflexible city bureaucracy.

  • And all the black cabs in London are now wheelchair accessable…

    Maybe we could sell some? Adapted for LH Drive…

  • Hey Xmas, the newer cabs will use 20% more fuel. Get some environmentalists involved, and maybe NYC will have to go with wheelchair accessable horse drawn stagecoaches.

  • I rated G.W. Bush the worst U.S. President in history for foreign politicy ineptitude and running a prosperous economy over a cliff, but the economic ineptitude and corruption of the Obama Administration (even if to placate different interest groups) is establishing a dismal continuity. Adam Smith famously said “There’s a lot of ruin in a nation,” but I hope my poor country does not test his idea to its limit.

  • Marco73/L. C. Burgundy: ya’ll are funny – LMAO!

    Not so funny: the Census Bureau says 20% (1 out of every 5) people in the United States has a limiting disability. That’s up from 16% (1 of 6) people 10 years ago. Careful what you ask for – the chances are looking pretty good that as you and those close to you get older, whatever you force on the disabled will eventually affect you! Imagine waiting outside a restaurant after dinner, waiting over 2 hours for your Access-A-Ride taxi to come pick you up!

    There was a contest for the “Taxi of Tomorrow.” Nissan won – and it’s a monopoly. All cabs would be replace with the new Nissan cab by 2014. To make them accessible, the frames will need to be cut and modified – making the cars unsafe in impacts for any passenger or driver.

    The MV-1 is built from the ground up to not only accommodate wheelchairs, but to also meet federal safety standards. People in wheelchairs won’t be the only disabled people who find the cab convenient. For proof just watch any building that has wheelchair ramps incorporated into the design.

    Your choice… like it or not, eventually all cabs will be accessible. Pick a safe design, or not. Choose wisely, Grasshopper!

  • Or I could could think about whether it makes more sense, when I wish to get on a bus, for thirty people trying to get somewhere to stop and wait three or four minutes each for my convenience while the access ramp goes slowly down, lifts me up, then retracts while I get on and another three or four minutes each while I get off, not to mention the expense of installing the Goldbergian device in the first place.

    Since L.C. Burgundy beat me to the snarky answer…



  • My earlier comment was perhaps too bitter for this case.

    A wheelchair-accessible requirement *could* be a win for Manhattan consumers– *if* medallion prices for accessible cabs were capped at a modest amount ($2,000?) and unlimited medallions were to be sold to any interested operators. Current medallion operators would retain the price advantage of $15,000 (alleviating their complaints about having their medallions devalued), but the long-term trend would be a major gain for consumers.

  • This is more evidence of the need to rationalize federal disability laws in line with principles of democratic governance: balance and fairness.
    While universal wheelchair access may be a noble goal for the 8 rides per day(out of 600,000 taxi rides) it is not superior to all other competing public goals.

  • mjs: where did you get your “8 rides per day” statistic? According to the MTA they provide “millions of trips a year for eligible customers.”

    Let’s see: 1 million divided by 365 equals… 8?

  • Of course equipping every taxi with a wheel chair ramp is not a cost effective solution to the problem. It is not rational to put a wheel chair ramp in every taxi if only a small percentage of people need to use it. Even if for argument’s sake we assume that 20% of the people have a limiting disability, I don’t believe that a wheel chair ramp will really serve the needs of the hard of hearing, visually impaired and people with other types of disabilities that don’t require a person to use a wheel chair. So why would you mandate a solution that is clearly not cost-effective? The reason is that the advocates for the disabled are not interested in solving the problem in a rational manner. What they want is for the non-disabled to be “punished” for not have a disability. The ADA has given then a club and they are using it to beat the rest of the people over the head.

  • That statistic was taken directly from Philip Howard’s op-ed.

  • Terry Bennington,

    Not so funny: the Census Bureau says 20% (1 out of every 5) people in the United States has a limiting disability. That’s up from 16% (1 of 6) people 10 years ago.

    The major issue with this statement is that the census defined “disability” in the two censuses. The definition was greatly expanded in the most recent census when compared to that in 2000, which was greatly expanded from the definition used in 1990.

    Apples and oranges.

  • “The reason is that the advocates for the disabled are not interested in solving the problem in a rational manner. What they want is for the non-disabled to be “punished” for not have a disability. The ADA has given then a club and they are using it to beat the rest of the people over the head.”

    what they want is to reap billions of dollars in legal extortion fees from companies, individuals, and government departments.
    They couldn’t care less about the disabled.

  • Until 20 years ago, we had the Checker Cabs, large roomy and could haul anything. Checker is no longer in business. The cabs were too heavy and used too much fuel. We seem to have come full circle.

  • Hi All –

    Due to recent unproven statements surrounding the safety of wheelchair accessible vehicle conversions, several disability organizations have come together to set the record straight.

    Please take a look at the below multimedia news release (where you can download the press release as well as images and video of the false statements being addressed).


    We want to make sure that you have the right information moving forward with regard to any articles on conversion vehicles or the MV-1.

    Nicole Fischer

    *Please note that one of the organizations is my client.

  • Even though wheelchair equipped vehicles are safe, my biggest issue is cost. The vehicles are more expensive. Since Santa Claus doesn’t bring the vehicles, they have to be paid for. It won’t be only those who need a ramp who pay extra, it will be everyone who uses the cab. Another cost that gets passed onto us.

    I had a friend who was a quadriplegic. His story showed how the free market helped him get around without mandated ramps. Since he needed a cab with a ramp, he planned his excursions with his preferred cab company. They worked together to make sure he had a cab ride to and from wherever he was going, the company also knew his schedule so they could make sure a cab with a ramp was available for him. It was a win-win situation as he always had a cab nearby, and the cab company was happy because they had a regular customer for life. Does that mean there weren’t issues? No, occasionally he had to wait longer than he wanted to, but he got around pretty well for 20 years without a government mandate.

  • Ms Fischer,

    I notice your linked article does not make any mention of cost . . . and whether or not the commoners want to be forced to pay that cost.

    I will add in the obvious (but maybe not to you) you are a lawyer – and you expect me to take ANYTHING y0u say as honest/reliable/neutral/informative?

    I’ve just plain caught too many lawyers in lies that (technically) were not lies, but sure made the case they were being paid to make. IMHO a lie is still a lie.

  • I’m torn.

    On the one hand, the heavy-handed ADA and those who promote it (especially the serial plaintiffs and their “cottage industry” lawyers) aren’t adding much value that I can see. And I’ve done battle with a number of them.

    On the other hand, I do so enjoy the sweet irony of Mayor Nannystate (no salt for you!) now being out Nannystated by the Nannyfeds.

    And of course, converting 100% of taxis to accommodate the needs of 20% (maybe) of hte populaiton is ridicuous. All the ADA requires is reasonable accommodations. Under this logic, every seat in every football stadium would have to be handicap accessible . . . and that is clearly not the law.

  • At the moment, Richard A., at the moment……

  • Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, literally. I’m 6’5″ tall. I have an artificial left hip and some metal plates and screws holding together my pelvis. I’m not in the 20% yet, but my latest hip replacement is already 15 years old, so I’m looking to upgrade again.
    All that hardware makes it difficult to bend enough for me to sit in the back seat of a standard car or taxi. Whenever I need to ride in a taxi, I specifically request a minivan or van, and that I get to sit in the front passenger seat.
    Amazingly, most cab companies are more than happy to provide a minivan or van; sometimes I have to wait a few more minutes for one to be routed to me.
    Now sitting in the front passenger seat is another story. Many big city cabs will not allow any passengers in the front of the vehicle. Safety regulations, you know. All I want to do is sit in the seat with extra legroom. Where are my reasonable accomodations?

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  • My question, and it really is a question, is are lawyers making a fortune bringing ADA claims? Somehow, I doubt it. I’m a plaintiffs’ lawyer. I’ve never brought one and I don’t know anyone who I know has. Maybe their is a big cottage industry out there but it is certainly outside of my sphere. I just hope we are not blaming trial lawyers just because we let a few posts go by without blaming them for anything.

    I would like to read the briefs in this case to see the arguments that were made. It is a tough issue all the way around. I certainly understand both points of view.

  • Ron,

    You forget. Lawyers don’t have to be getting rich to be despicable.

    The average guy mugging little old ladies is not getting rich, however, he’s still a leaky *********.

  • I get your point, I guess, David. I suppose I can just better understand the motive of the average mugger between than the average lawyer going after a “not get so rich” scheme…unless they are true believers in the cause of the handicapped in which case, you have to admit it is harder to have the same venom against them. But my point was, economically, I think there is lower lying fruit.

  • Ron,

    Your heart may be in the right place (useless in the real world), but you forget: People do not study law to serve justice. They study law to make money. The people studying law are no more altruistic, idealistic, etc. than the guy taking a course in second hand auto sales.

    I’ll bet no one remembers that line from the Godfather where Corleoni tells his son to get a degree. “One man with a briefcase can steal more money than a thousand men with guns”.

    Of course you don’t remember it. It was cut from the final issue. Now who (do you really have to ask) “encouraged” the director to censor his own work.

    The fact that the commoners just don’t have enough money to make all lawyers rich is not to the ethical credit of the incompetents who can’t claw their way to the top of the pile.