Seniors get one hail of a ride after city approves use of taxis

By Philip Newman

The MTA has approved the use of taxicabs to pick up and drop off elderly and disabled Access-A-Ride passengers in a trial program some officials said would cut costs by 70 percent.

“We are working every day to find new ways to help our disabled customers navigate the city, whether it’s through our 85 accessible subway stations, fully accessible fleet of 6,000 buses or our paratransit services,” said Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Jay Walder.

“The use of yellow cabs will help make the city more accessible to older New Yorkers and make Access-A-Ride more efficient,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“While users only pay $2.25 per ride, a single trip [using Access-A-Ride] is nearly $50 and it’s the taxpayers who are picking up the tab,” Bloomberg said. “At $50, an Access-A-Ride trip is nearly three times the cost of an average ride in a taxi, which is currently around $15,” Bloomberg said.

Access-A-Ride patrons will pay their $2.25 fares using prepaid debit cards in a plan developed in coordination with the City Council, city Department for the Aging and the New York Academy for Medicine.

Bloomberg first proposed using taxis to support the Access-A-Ride program in his 2009 election campaign and in his Age-Friendly NYC plan.

The pilot program using taxicabs for Access-A-Ride users will run for 90 days, after which it might be expanded to include more patrons — presently 400 people who live below 96th Street in Manhattan.

The Access-A-ride system currently has 150,000 users, those who cannot use the MTA bus or subway systems.

With use of taxicabs, the MTA has estimated it will save at least $200,000 a month.

The MTA recently reported that use of the Access-A-Ride services more than doubled between 2006 and 2010. It cost the MTA more than $400 million to operate in 2009.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at [email protected] or phone at 718-260-4536.

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