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22 telephone system. As of early 2007, 28% of weekday trips for taller vehicles that drive like sedans. By having car-like vehi- DART paratransit (approximately 700 of 2,500 total trips) cles available for conversion to accessible vehicles, their use were being booked through XPB. DART does not track the as taxicabs is possible. Furthermore, as described later in this number of its riders who have used XPB. section, manufacturers are developing specialized taxicab sedans that can accommodate wheelchairs. Regional Transportation Commission Washoe-- Shopper Routes Taxicabs as Paratransit Vehicles In addition to ADA-complementary paratransit service The vehicles used to supply paratransit include low-floor buses, (Access), the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) minibuses, vans, and sedans. Newly manufactured vans and Washoe (Reno, Nevada) provides a set of four shopper routes buses are usually equipped with ramps or lifts. Most taxicabs for ADA riders. These four routes run on weekdays from are sedans and usually feature cargo areas sufficient to carry 8:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (fixed route and Access operate seven a folding wheelchair. days per week). Each route acts as a service route, with pick- ups and drop offs provided anywhere within each route's geo- For paratransit passengers who can travel in sedans, taxi- graphic area. Most of Reno is covered among the four routes, cabs have been used as paratransit vehicles for some time. The as well as the northern suburbs and the city of Sparks (to the extent of their effectiveness and the ways in which taxicabs are immediate east). Although there is overlap in the service areas used varies considerably from city to city. There are a num- of the four routes, riders do not transfer from one route to ber of variables at play, such as the regulatory environment, another because of the difficulty in coordinating the routes and marketplace conditions, enforcement, and training. the resulting concern of potential long wait times for riders. In some systems where ADA-complementary paratransit is These shopper routes do not accept advance reservations; offered through a mixed fleet of vehicles that includes vans they take only same-day requests. The vehicles assigned to the and sedans, the sedan service is often provided by taxicab routes (one per route) travel past certain senior housing com- companies that operate under contract. Sometimes these vehi- plexes approximately every 2 h. The housing complexes may cles are equipped with meters and can be used for any paying place signs in their front windows to indicate that a resident customer. Other times, the taxis are dedicated to paratransit wants a ride on the shopper route. If a rider boards at senior service. The drivers of these vehicles are often better trained, housing without a reservation, the rider tells the driver where providing a better quality of service to paratransit passengers. he or she wants to go. The rider also arranges the return trip with the driver. Accessible Minivans The fare for a rider on a shopper route is the same as other ADA paratransit ($1.70 per trip). The drivers offer as much or First manufactured domestically in 1983, the minivan led to more personal assistance as on Access paratransit service, as the development of taller vehicles that drive like sedans. By many riders will have packages from shopping. having car-like vehicles available for conversion to accessible vehicles, their use as taxicabs is possible. With the advent of This type of service offers a combination of the benefits of wheelchair-accessible minivans, it has become more practical fixed route (no need to reserve a trip and somewhat regular for regulatory authorities to require that a certain percentage of schedules) and paratransit (door-to-door, driver assistance the taxi fleet be wheelchair accessible. In some cities, regula- available). The vehicle productivity for these routes is 3.6 pas- tors have required operators to convert a portion of their fleets. senger trips per vehicle-hour (based on 1,900 passenger trips In other cities, regulators have issued additional licenses exclu- and 525 vehicle-hours per month). This compares with a pro- sively for accessible taxis. This has been particularly effective ductivity of 2.6 passenger trips per vehicle-hour for Access in systems with taxi medallions where demand exceeds supply. service. RTC estimated its resulting annual savings from the Although not universally true, those operating minivans that shopper routes at $170,000. are wheelchair accessible have been able to carry more pas- sengers or people with large quantities of luggage than would otherwise be able to travel together in a sedan. TAXIS AND OTHER FLEXIBLE CAPACITY This discussion focuses on the role of taxicabs in paratransit Accessible Sedans both to support ADA-complementary paratransit service as well as to meet the needs of those with impaired mobility. Sedans are another vehicle alternative for some paratransit Although most taxicabs are sedans, changes in the automobile services. Pioneered in England, the accessible taxi sedan is industry have helped to address some of the limitations of one of the latest trends in vehicles (see Figure 1). The Lon- using sedans as a paratransit resource. The minivan, first man- don Taxi is distributed in the United States through London ufactured domestically in 1983, led to the development of Taxis of North America (www.londontaxisna.com). These
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23 ble taxicab in the United States. Its major impediment is its rel- atively high initial purchase price, approximately double the cost of a typical domestic taxicab. It is possible that, over time, the cost to own such a vehicle will prove comparable to the ownership costs of a typical taxicab sedan. In terms of its proposed cost of approximately $25,000, the Standard Taxicab shows promise. Once it is deployed as a revenue-generating taxicab, more will be known about its potential for addressing the need for accessible taxicabs. King County Metro Case Study (Accessible Minivans) An ongoing partnership among King County Metro (Wash- ington State), King County's Licensing Division, and the city of Seattle is coordinating a demonstration project to provide accessible taxi service for people who use wheelchairs in King County. The program was intended to determine the potential effects of introducing low-floor accessible taxis into the 800- vehicle fleet of city and county taxis. Metro provided eight of its supervisor vehicles, which had approximately 30,000 miles of use, for these accessible taxis. The operators of these 8 vehi- cles are 16 cab drivers who formed a driver group and affil- FIGURE 1 Accessible taxi sedan. iated with one of the major taxi companies for automated dispatching services. The driver group was required to obtain $1 million in liability coverage, the same level as vehicles were priced at $49,000 in a 2005 New York Times other taxi companies participating in the Metro Access over- article (Motavalli 2005). A new sedan-based taxi called the flow program. Standard Taxicab is being marketed and developed by the Vehicle Production Group, LLC. This vehicle is designed By providing the vehicles from its own paratransit fleet, and engineered specifically for taxicab and paratransit fleets King County Metro addressed one of the key financial issues and is expected to cost approximately $25,000 according to a 2006 article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Harrell 2006). of using accessible minivans as taxicabs. As a result, taxi Information on its use for wheelchairs is available at www. drivers did not have to invest in a more costly vehicle to pro- standardtaxi.com/disabled.html. Figure 2 shows a Standard vide service. Fares charged and other services are the same as Taxicab. taxi sedans. Because the London Taxi has a long record of effectiveness The program has worked reasonably well from an opera- as a taxicab in England, it is most likely suitable as an accessi- tional perspective. Monthly, they have received approximately 50 dispatch calls for Metro Access trips, 30 calls for overflow Metro Access trips, and hundreds of general public trips. Early in the project, each accessible cab provided only seven to nine trips per month for wheelchair customers. There are a few ongoing challenges. First, the size of the fleet is small and cannot adequately cover a large geographic area. If a rider who uses a wheelchair calls for an accessible taxi, the response time, although same day, is usually much longer than for calling a nonaccessible taxi. Obtaining affordable insurance also proved to be a problem, as the asso- ciation could not get onto a larger group insurance program and required extra time (four months) to obtain insurance. Their annual insurance costs amount to $10,000 per vehicle-- more than three times as expensive as for other taxis. The mini- vans get better gas mileage than the vehicles typically used as FIGURE 2 Standard taxicab. cabs (Crown Victorias); however, the cost savings are not