Is the city trying to handicap Access-A-Ride?
The city is test driving a pilot program for elderly and disabled residents called the Taxi Smart Card, which will provide eligible participants with — you guessed it — a card allowing them to use livery and taxi cabs as an alternative to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Access-A-Ride.
The test area will include Marine Park, Mill Basin, Mill Island, Bergen Beach, Flatlands, and Canarsie.
“We were exploring alternative ways to provide transportation for those with disabilities and this provides another avenue for getting them the transportation they need,” said Jon Minners, Department for the Aging spokesman.
The program will provide up to 1,000 cards to eligible area residents. Currently, there are about 800 spots left in the program, according to Minners. With this new card in hand, Taxi Smart Card participants can hail livery cabs street side, as opposed to Access-A-Ride, which must be called in advance.
To participate in the program, the elderly and handicapped people can apply to the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities or the Department for the Aging. If deemed eligible, they may purchase a card by sending in a money order of $12.50. The city will supplement that payment with an additional $87.50. Participants can reload their cards four additional times for total benefits of up to $437.50. Participants may not, however, refill the cards with their own cash after the four refills have been exhausted.
The neighborhoods represented by Community Board 18 were chosen for the pilot program because, being in perhaps the most fart-flung corner of coastal Brooklyn, they are among the least serviced by rail and yellow cab.
Access-A-Ride is the city’s paratransit service for individuals unable to use public bus or subway service for some or all of their trips. This shared-ride, door-to-door service is called “demand-response” because eligible customers must reserve in advance for each trip. A common complaint amongst Access-A-Ride users is that drivers are frequently late for their pickups. The new program might provide a more expedient way to get around the city.
“When they’re good, they’re good. But when they’re bad, fuggedaboutit,” said a scooter-bound Brooklynite who relies on Access-A-Ride. He refused to give his name for fear of being black-listed from the Access-A-Ride.
“Everyday’s an adventure, because they’ll either pick you up on time, or they’ll pick you up an hour late,” he said.
Naturally, wheelchair-bound men and women may find it difficult, or impossible, to use livery cabs, which do not have handicap lifts like the Access-A-Ride vehicles.
The city hasn’t decided whether to make this a full-fledged program, and this may be the last chance disabled New Yorkers have to take a taxi on the city’s dime.
“This is only a pilot program,” said Minners. “We would love to see it continue and expand, but we can’t do that until we determine the success of the program.”
Eligible Community Board 18 residents can apply for the Taxi Smart Card by calling the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities at (212) 788-2830, or the Department for the Aging at (212) 442-3026
The following car services accept the Taxi Smart Card:
ZIP CODE: 11210
Alpha Car & Limo, Inc.
Depaul Car Service
Easy Fast Car Service, Inc.
J & B Car & Limo Svc., Inc.
ZIP CODE: 11229
A Kings Hwy Car Svc., Inc.
Concorde Exp of NY, Inc.
Eastland Car Service
Easyride Car Svc., Inc.
Jaffa Car & Limo Svc., Inc.
Nostrand Car Svc.
On Time Car Service
Safeway Car Service
Sunset Service Trans., Inc.
ZIP CODE: 11234
Alexis Van Lines, Inc.
Gateway Car & Limo Service
Mill Basin Car Service
Pebbles Transportation, Inc.
Winthrop Holding of NY, Inc.
ZIP CODE: 11236
Canarse Car Service, Inc.
George Town Mgt., Inc.
Dreamland Car & Limo Svc.
Kings Plaza Car & Limo, Inc.
Three Guy’s Car Service
Transit Private Car Svc., Inc.
Reach reporter Colin Mixson at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-4514.