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.