Here’s a quiz. (Don’t worry if you didn’t study. It’s only one question and it’s worth zero points toward your final grade).
Anyway, who said the following stupid thing as a rationale for not putting wheelchair-accessible taxi cabs on the streets of New York City?
“A lot of drivers say the passengers sit too far away and so they can’t have a good dialogue and they get lower tips.”
A) Donald Trump
B) Michael Bloomberg
C) Bozo the Clown
If you said C, I don’t blame you. But the correct answer is B. Bloomberg said this about accessible taxis and people in wheelchairs who wanted to put more of them on the streets when he was mayor of New York back in 2011.
He also said, “Fewer people may use cabs because the suspension is worse, and I think you’re going to see suits about people getting up, trying to get to the front, across the divide. You know there’s so much more space between the backseat and the divider, you’re going to have people getting hurt.”
“You just can’t take a wheelchair out into the street and try and hail a cab,” he added.
This was the first thing I thought of when Bloomberg announced he’s running for President, in response to the deafening clamor for more politically tepid billionaire candidates.
Bloomberg’s eruption of incredibly stupid comments happened in January 2011, when a federal lawsuit was filed against the city and the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) by disabled individuals and disability rights organizations. At that time, the complaint said, only 231 of the city’s 13,437 yellow taxis could accommodate wheelchairs. That’s 1.8 percent. The complaint charged that this violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
At that time, the complaint said, only 231 of the city’s 13,437 yellow taxis could accommodate wheelchairs.
Bloomberg and the TLC only made things worse a few months later when the result of a vehicle-design competition called Taxi of Tomorrow was announced. The winning design was not wheelchair-accessible. This meant that cabs retired over the next ten years would be replaced by brand new cabs that were still inaccessible.
In October 2011, the U.S. Attorney for Manhattan joined in the lawsuit, agreeing with the plaintiff’s position that the lack of taxi access in New York violated the ADA. Shortly after that, Bloomberg spewed his nonsense.
The plaintiffs won in U.S. District Court but the city appealed and the decision was partly overturned. So a settlement was reached in 2013, requiring the city to make 50 percent of the yellow medallion fleet accessible by 2020.
TLC statistics show that as of last July, only 2,817 of 11,589 cabs covered under the settlement are accessible. That’s only 24 per cent, so there’s still a long way to go.
Let’s hope, if Bloomberg wins, that he’s learned something from all this. Let’s hope that when called upon to respect and enforce the ADA, he won’t throw a tantrum.
Otherwise we’ll just be replacing one boneheaded New Yorker with another.