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USE OF TAXIS IN PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND OLDER ADULTS Taxis have provided trips for people with disabilities and older adults for many yearsâbefore the ADA, before the federal government provided grant funds for dial-a-ride services, and before public subsidies went to human service agencies to buy vans to transport clients. Older adults and people with disabilitiesâthose able to ride in a sedanâhave relied on taxis for as long as taxis have existed. Whatâs new is that taxi companies have begun acquiring accessible vehicles that can serve riders with disabilities who cannot transfer to a sedan seat. Whatâs new is technologyâcard readers inside the taxi vehicle and software in the officeâthat allows riders to pay with a swipe card, automatically verifies each trip, and processes the trip data for oversight, moni- toring, and payment. Whatâs also new is that public transportation agencies are realizing that taxis can be a cost-efficient resource for serving riders with disabilities as well as older adults in an era of constrained budgets, particularly with cost concerns for ADA paratransit service. The objectives of this synthesis study were to explore how public transportation agencies are using taxis to serve people with disabilities and older adults and to identify the advantages and challenges of that use. In addition, the experiences of transit agencies participating in this synthesis study provide âlessons learnedâ that can be shared with other agencies that are considering taxis as a resource, so those agencies can plan wisely. Building on a literature review, survey of public transportation agencies that use taxis, case examples of five of the surveyed agencies, and interviews with two taxi companies that provide services subsidized by transit agencies, this report outlines the state of the practice of taxi use by transit agencies. The literature review identified a number of benefits as well as challenges in the use of taxis by public transit agencies, and many of those were echoed in the findings of this studyâs survey and case examples. Forty-five transit agencies were selected as a survey sample. Thirty-nine of the 45 agencies responded and indicated use of taxis, a response rate of 87%. Case examples of five of the agencies participating in the survey provide more robust information on taxi use than is possible with the survey, including details of two agenciesâ implementation of technol- ogy for rider payment and trip monitoring. Information and perspectives from the two taxi companies provide a balance to what the transit agencies reported. The synthesis study has identified two major advantages to the use of taxis by public transit agencies: cost efficiency and responsiveness. Data from the surveyâfor ADA paratransit ser- vice provided on a nondedicated and dedicated basisâshow that average costs per passenger trip in taxis range from $23.29 to $28.17. Data reported for same-day taxi service show an average cost per passenger trip of $14.16. The reported cost data can be compared with figures from the National Transit Database, with the 2013 report year showing an average per-passenger trip cost for demand-response service, which is predominantly ADA paratransit, of $34.06 for all urban reporters and $43.65 for the 50 largest transit agencies. SUMMARY
2 The responsiveness of taxis is based on their ability to serve trips on a real-time, day-of- service basis for trips during peak periods and at other times, and to serve overflow trips on a prescheduled basis. This includes, for example, serving will-call trips, such as picking up riders who were not ready for their scheduled return trip because a medical appointment ran late. Public transit agencies use taxis in many ways. The survey found that 13 of the 39 agen- cies use taxis for their ADA paratransit service; 11 use taxis only for same-day service, which is not required by the ADA; and 15 use taxis for both ADA paratransit and same-day service. Agencies also reported using taxis for employment trips for low-income workers, late-night and holiday public transit service when fixed-route buses do not operate, Medicaid transpor- tation, and âveteransâ service.â One agency reported using taxis to serve trips at locations that lack safe access for buses. For ADA paratransit, taxis are used predominantly on a nondedicated basis, with transit- subsidized trips intermingled with trips for private-pay, general-public trips. Taxis serve mul- tiple operational roles for ADA paratransit trips, most frequently serving trips throughout the day that do not fit on the schedules of dedicated vehicles. Same-day service is provided to support ADA paratransit, helping to solve issues that arise on the day of service, such as trips during peak periods that the dedicated provider cannot serve. Same-day service also functions as a supplemental service to help meet ADA paratransit demand on a lower cost-per-trip basis. It is important for supplemental same-day programs to have mechanisms to manage demand because riders often prefer same-day trips to next-day ADA trips, creating trip vol- umes that may not be financially sustainable. One of the case example transit agencies pro- vides a same-day taxi service for ADA riders that is designed so the rider pays the first $2 on the meter, the agency pays for the next $12, and the rider is responsible for any cost over $14 on the meter. Riders can take as many as four one-way trips per day, and the transit agency placed a ceiling of 600 taxi trips per day. Although taxis have advantages, they also have challenges. The main challenges reported by the transit agencies are the effort required for monitoring and oversight and lack of acces- sible taxi service. Only a few of the surveyed transit agencies identified use of swipe card technology with automated monitoring and audit capabilities. Other agencies report a range of methods to monitor and audit taxi trips, including careful examination of used vouch- ers turned in by the cab company, which was described by one agency as a âvery tedious process.â Swipe card technology reportedly provides numerous advantages to the transit agency, including greatly improved monitoring and oversight capabilities, and advantages to riders, including a streamlined and more secure payment method. Once it is working smoothly, the technology can also provide administrative advantages to the taxi companies and drivers. Implementation requires significant time and effort, including training for the taxi company and drivers and trainingâand sometimes some hand-holdingâwhile introducing the pay- ment method to riders. The lack of accessible vehicles and accessible service was reported as problematic, although 35 of the surveyed transit agencies said that at least one of the taxi companies they use has accessible taxis. However, without an adequate number of accessible vehicles, scheduling taxi trips is compromised. One case example transit agency reported that its taxi contractor for ADA paratransit sometimes sends back trips scheduled for riders who use a wheelchair because the contractor does not have enough accessible vehicles. For the three transit agencies reporting no accessible taxis, other arrangements are made. For example, one agency contracts with a large human service agency to serve accessible trips.
3 The two taxi companies interviewed emphasized that incentives encourage their drivers to operate an accessible vehicle given the higher operating costs for such vehicles compared with taxi sedans. One of the companies discounts its weekly lease fee for an accessible vehi- cle, and both companies reported collaborative efforts with the transit agencies they serve so the agencies provide incentives to drivers for serving accessible trips. A new challenge is emerging. The mobility services provided by individuals driving their own cars that users access by means of an application (âappâ) on their smartphone may threaten public transit agenciesâ use of taxis. The recent arrival and popularity of transpor- tation network companies (TNCs)âalso called app-based ride servicesâin many of the countryâs urban and suburban areas have lured drivers from the taxi industry, leaving taxi companies with fewer drivers. Although half of the 26 agencies responding to the question on TNCs have not witnessed a direct impact on the taxi services they subsidize, many reported concerns. One agency expressed: âOur concern is that Uber will take so much taxi business that the taxis will have to decrease their fleets, leaving the Call Center without a much needed transportation resource.â San Francisco, ground zero for TNCs, reportedly has lost as many as one-third of the cityâs taxi drivers. More troubling for the accessible taxi service subsidized by San Franciscoâs transit agency is that as many as 25 of the cityâs 100 accessible taxi vehicles are not in service because the companies lack drivers. Lessons learned from transit agencies participating in the survey highlight two conclu- sions. The first is the need for concerted oversight and monitoring of taxi services, which was the most frequently cited challenge. One agency recommended: âHave very structured oversight and monitoring activities.â The second message underscores the importance of understanding the business and culture of the taxi industry and finding a taxi company interested in building a relationship with the transit agency. This advice is captured by one transit agency with a long history of working with taxis: â[B]uild relationships with taxi companies so that they can see your services as a market they could fulfill and you can better understand how the services you need may fit within their framework.â Input from the two taxi companies is instructive on this latter point. They pointed out that driver incentives are particularly important for accessible service; oper- ating accessible vehicles is more costly than operating a sedan, and the profit margin is slim. Transit agency requirements, such as for data reporting, cost the company in administrative time, and taxi drivers are paid as often as daily, so delayed payments for their services can be problematic. A component of relationship building is finding a taxi company that has a commitment to serving people with disabilities and older adults. Both taxi companies interviewed appear to have this commitment. One of the companies said that such ridersâlong before publicly subsidized servicesâhad always been âour riders,â and the company saw its involvement with public transit agency work as an extension of that role. Other useful advice regarding transit agenciesâ use of taxis included the following: â¢ Clearly define the service that the taxi company is to operate; â¢ Driver training is important; â¢ Focus on the need and requirements for data reporting; â¢ Technology is an advantage for trip monitoring and auditing; â¢ Ensure riders understand what to expect with taxi serviceâlimit expectations; â¢ There may be service quality issues; and â¢ Incentives are needed for accessible taxi service.