Assemblyman David Weprin Testimony on Proposed TLC Rules Regarding Accessibility

Good afternoon, I’d like to thank TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi for inviting me here to speak today. I’m glad to come out here and share my opinion on the TLC’s proposed rules regarding accessibility.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Assemblyman David Weprin. I represent the 24th Assembly District in Queens, which is comprised of the neighborhoods of Briarwood, Bellerose, Bellerose Manor, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hillcrest, Hollis Hills, Holliswood, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Oakland Gardens, Queens Village, Richmond Hill, South Richmond Hill, and Utopia. In Albany, I chaired the New York State Assembly’s Task Force for People with Disabilities from 2014 to 2016 – It was a position I held closely and although I am no longer chair of the Task Force; I’m still deeply committed to the supporting the disability community in New York. As long as I’ve had the chairmanship, ensuring accessible transportation for people with disabilities has always been a top concern for advocacy groups across the state and city.

Transportation is an integral component in enabling people to fully participate in their communities. It enables people to work, choose where to live, pursue an education, access health care, worship, shop, and participate in recreational activities. For New York’s residents with disabilities, the right to fully participate in their communities and access services is determined by what New York's transportation network can provide. In New York City, thanks to progress made by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Commissioner Calise and TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi -- by 2020, one out of every two yellow and green cabs will be accessible for people who use wheelchairs and scooters. This is a hugely important step, but many New Yorkers with disabilities still face significant obstacles to finding equitable and accessible transportation.

One of the overarching concerns that we have heard from many advocates involves a lack of access to For Hire Vehicles or FHVs, including black cars and cars hired through ride sharing apps, like Uber and Lyft. This lack of access creates a two-tiered transportation system in our city, where people with disabilities lack the same on demand access to transportation that is available to most New Yorkers. The lack of accessible FHVs also creates a two-tiered system for the owners of large fleets – with the owners and dispatchers of FHV fleets are being allowed to operate in the face of ADA compliance. After recognizing this disparity last year, I introduced legislation that would provide persons with disabilities equal access to pre-arranged for-hire vehicles under transportation network companies statewide. My bill required TNCs to make 5% of their vehicles disability accessible within one year of the legislation’s passing, 15% by the end of the 2nd year and 25% by the end of the fourth year. The bill also mandates parity in response times for disability accessible and non-accessible vehicles.

As such, I am glad to support the proposed TLC rules on accessibility in the For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) industry. By phasing in the requirements over a period of four years, starting at 10% in 2018 and eventually reaching 25% by 2021; operators will have a chance to gradually adjust to the changes as older vehicles age out of fleets. Additionally, I am also supportive of the proposal to allow bases more flexibility to dispatch to any wheelchair accessible for hire vehicle – this adjustment allows for accessible vehicles to remain available for people with disabilities, when they need it, by ensuring that ‘at the ready’ accessible cars are able to be dispatched by different bases.

It’s about time New York’s FHVs, Taxis and overall transportation system is accessible to people with disabilities and when we provide for wheelchair accessibility in ALL forms of transportation, we guarantee the independence of people with disabilities!

Thank you.