Disability advocates hail taxi medallion auction

Only 2 percent of New York taxis are wheelchair accessible. Credit: Getty Images
Only 2 percent of New York taxis are wheelchair accessible. Credit: Getty Images

Getting around town in a New York minute isn’t easy for Edith Prentiss: She uses a power wheelchair and most subway stations and yellow taxis aren’t wheelchair accessible. Prentiss is the chairwoman of Taxis For All Campaign, a disability rights coalition calling for a fully wheelchair accessible taxi fleet.

Currently, Prentiss said, trying to hail a cab she can actually ride is a frustrating experience.

 “I’ve waited for up to half an hour and then given up,” Prentiss said.

At last count, there were just 233 wheelchair accessible yellow taxis, or less than 2 percent of the total fleet. But the odds will soon improve for Prentiss. The city is adding 200 more accessible cabs to its fleet of more than 13,000 yellow taxis. 

On Thursday, the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission will auction off 200 taxi medallions, the metal plates that authorize yellow cabs to drive in New York City.

All the medallions are for accessible vehicles.

 Medallion auctions are fairly infrequent — the last one was in 2008 — and don’t happen on a predictable timetable. The first batch of medallions were sold in 1937 for $10. The going rate has since skyrocketed, and medallions now often fetch more than $1 million.

In the past, adding to the supply of medallions hasn’t reduced the value of each medallion, said Michael Kowalsky, a vice president at Medallion Financial Corp., which grants loans to taxi companies and drivers to purchase medallions.

 “The history has been: more supply, more value,” Kowalsky said. “That’s because there’s a good need for transportation in midtown Manhattan, the core business district.”

But not everyone agrees.

“The streets are flooded enough,” said Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. “There’s so much hustle in this job that every increase in competition is an increase in your risk and your ability to earn a living.”

Desai’s concerns about the auction are not unfounded, said Graham Hodges, a professor at Colgate University and author of “Taxi! A Cultural History of the New York City Cabdriver.” “It creates a lot of excessive competition,” said Hodges said of the medallion auctions.

An auction isn’t the only way to get more accessible taxis on the street. For example, Desai said she knows a few owners who have opted to drive accessible vehicles of their own volition.

Biju Mathew, a professor at Rider University and author of “Taxi! Cabs and Capitalism in New York City,” said that the government could instead offer tax incentives and subsidies to companies and drivers who upgrade to accessible vehicles.

“It’s a matter of having the political will to do it,” Matthew said.

For now, Prentiss is somewhat heartened by Thursday’s medallion auction, which will nearly double the number of accessible yellow taxis on the road. Still, she hopes that one day all New York City taxis will be able to give her and other wheelchair users a lift.

“Just put the damn cars on the street and we’ll be happy campers,” Prentiss said.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Dogs are capable of feeling jealousy - U.S.…

By Curtis Skinner(Reuters) - Dogs are a man's best friend, and research released on Wednesday says canines want to keep it that way.Dogs are capable…

Local

G train riders brace for five-week shutdown

G train service will be suspended between Brooklyn and Queens between Friday, July 25, and Tuesday, Sept. 2.

International

Peaches Geldof's death was drugs-related, coroner rules

LONDON (Reuters) - The death of Peaches Geldof, the daughter of musician and Band Aid founder Bob Geldof, was drugs-related, a coroner ruled on Wednesday.The…

Local

Family, supporters gather in Brooklyn for Eric Garner…

Family members gathered on Wednesday for the funeral of Eric Garner, who died shortly after police put him in a banned chokehold as they arrested him.

Going Out

Where to go drinking on National Tequila Day…

Thursday is just close enough to the end of the week to make you envision yourself already sunning on a beach towel or lounging by…

Going Out

Things to do in NYC this week: July…

Performing arts A 70’s Summer Night Friday, 6:30 p.m. The Green Building 452 Union St., Gowanus $35, 347-529-6473 Party like it’s summer in the 1970s…

Going Out

5 must-try dishes at Edible Manhattan's Good Beer

Rooting out the exotic amid the New York City bar scene is noble quest. But if you’d like to have it all come to you,…

Books

Art imitates life (almost) in David Shapiro's new…

David Shapiro talks about his book, "You're Not Much Use To Anyone."

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

MLB

Brandon McCarthy finds his calling on Twitter

Yankees starter Brandon McCarthy joined Twitter three year ago for the same reason many people do: to get news quickly.

Sports

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running…

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running game a boost

Food

Recharge with a post-workout smoothie from Nicky Hilton

Some people can roll out of bed right as their alarm goes off. And that alarm isn’t set for 20 minutes before they have to…

Education

Colleges are increasingly embracing the concept of gender-neutral…

  Northwestern University recently made headlines after announcing that it would be installing two gender-neutral bathrooms in the university's student center. “These are two gender-open…

Career

How to prepare to interview for your dream…

    Congratulations! You landed a job interview at your dream company! A lot of hard work has gone into determining which companies to apply…

Style

The shirtdress is a summer must-have

  We love throwing on our boyfriend’s shirt and a pair of jeans (no matter how much he grumbles that it’s his turn to wear the…