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Old 05-03-2016, 01:31 AM
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Default Uber: Does the Transportation Revolution Include Us?

from New Mobilty mag: Uber: Does the Transportation Revolution Include Us?
"New York City: The Only Ones Losing Something
New York City is the only city that is losing existing accessible transportation because of Uber. “New York is different than any other city because we have a mandate for 50 percent accessible taxis, and Uber is cutting into that,” says United Spinal Association CEO James Weisman. “Uber operates over 30,000 vehicles in New York City, and not one is accessible. They have an UberT on their app, which gets you a taxi, and in there is another tab, UberWAV, and that will call you an accessible cab that advocates worked two decades to get, and Uber is putting them out of business.”

Although cabs are owned by their companies, to drive a cab in New York City, you need to purchase a medallion. Because of the advocacy of groups like United Spinal and the Taxis For All campaign, for a brief shining period about four years ago, cab drivers slavered after medallions for accessible cabs, and it looked like the golden dream of a power wheelchair user being able to actually hail a cab was coming true.

Then came TNCs, including Uber, “and now in 2016 no accessible medallions have been sold and there are no plans to sell them,” says Weisman. “There are no buys, they’re worthless.”

And the city is just letting it happen. “The city fought us for years on accessible cabs and the Taxis For All campaign is 19 years old now,” says Weisman. “And now they let Uber just take over. They could have protected the Yellow Cabs and regulated Uber by treating it like a taxi company, but they would not do that.”

So in a twist of fate, Weisman has thrown in — for now — with the cab companies. “We are not your average disabled population that has nothing,” says Weisman. “We had 50 percent taxi access. If Uber doesn’t do something like that, or that is as effective, our population loses. We can’t just walk away from that.” Half of the city’s cabs will still have to be accessible, but the fleet will have significantly shrunken.

United Spinal has vigorously campaigned against Uber, including running anti-Uber ads, in hopes of saving the taxi industry and, by extension, saving the deal for a dramatic increase in accessible cabs. Without the taxi companies, after all, the deal for 50 percent of all cabs to be accessible is worthless. And then UberWAV is worthless, too, since there won’t be enough WAVs for UberWAV to connect with in the city.

Still, there are ways that Uber’s business model could benefit all people with disabilities, says Weisman. Think about all the types of transportation that exist just to serve our community. “You have Medicaid ambulettes, Voc Rehab types of transportation, paratransit, VA medical center transportation … in New York City hundreds of millions of dollars are spent getting wheelchair users to the doctor,” and think of how much money and time could be saved using a platform like Uber’s that connects people directly to a WAV driver. Still, says Weisman, “They should not receive government money if they’re going to keep their for-hire business inaccessible.”

That’s for the future. Right now, advocates are grappling with a brand-new system that works beautifully for everyone but those who use power chairs or scooters. “People don’t notice when wheelchair users are not included,” says Weisman. “A whole transportation mode has been created without wheelchair accessibility.”

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