Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday: We Are In The News

Taxi van for disabled riders aces test - in a New York minute

A disabled-riders group showed off a specially equipped taxi van yesterday that takes seconds to load a passenger and wheelchair.

"It's a rear-entry vehicle ramp that can load and secure a passenger in under a minute," said Michael Harris, head of the Disabled Riders Coalition. "And that's from when you hail the cab to when your chair is secure and the driver is ready togo."

Harris contrasted that with the arduous process of getting a disabled passenger into a sedan and his or her chair into the trunk, which he said can take as long as 20 minutes.

Dozens of onlookers lined up at the demonstration site at 23rd St. and Seventh Ave. to try the system.

There are just two of the modified Toyota vans plying the city at the moment, part of a pilot program Harris hopes to see expanded as soon as possible.

"It's our hope that the Taxi and Limousine Commission will approve this for use as a taxicab soon," Harris said.

Once the design has the TLC's stamp of approval, "We could see as many as 50 or 60 on the streets in a matter of weeks, and over 100 in a few months," said Harris.

Harris said more wheelchair-accessible taxis would not only make life easier for the disabled, but would ease pressure on the city's overstressed Access-A-Ride system.

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