It’s harder and harder to get an accessible taxi cab in Madison.” (Paulson)
That’s alder Erik Paulson, who represents Madison’s far east side on the Madison Common Council.
Paulson is the author of an amendment seeking to increase the fleet of accessible taxi cabs in the city, along with fellow alder Charles Myadze, who represents Madison’s north side.
The capital budget proposal would spend $250,000 to finance accessible vehicles for private cab companies. That would be enough to pay for about 4 or 5 accessible vehicles, which can each cost up to $64,000
Alder Paulson says the proposal was driven by a general lack of accessible transportation in the city – and that providing taxi services with grants for accessible vehicles would help solve the problem.
But the proposal won’t come before alders tonight or this week.It failed to move past one of Madison’s most powerful committees – the finance committee- back in September, during budget considerations then.
Philip Gritzmacher is a planner with the department of transportation. He was at that September finance committee meeting. Gritzmacher says says that this is likely not a rejection of the idea forever – , there just wasn’t enough information to move forward this fall.
“I think more information was need to justify the numbers from the operators themselves, more information about how the vehicle would be used, just more information in general.”
Paulson thinks that providing taxi services with grants for accessible vehicles would solve the problem.
Union Cab is the only on demand taxi service in the area with accessible vehicles, according to a department of transportation planner who we’ll get to later.
Bill Carter is the business manager of Union Cab. He says it’s becoming difficult for them to meet the demand.
“Even after we add whatever new vehicles we’re able to, we’re still way short of the demand that’s out there.” (Carter)
Union Cab has 9 accessible vehicles. Carter thinks having money for more would be helpful, but they are also struggling to find drivers.
“But we’ve found, I think from talking to people internally that if we had more up to date vehicles that we could probably attract more drivers to driving it.” (Carter)
Carter says that while Uber can provide accessible services if requested, they are not considered an on demand service. That’s because Uber drivers can choose to reject a ride.
Alders Paulson and Myadze reached out to Ben Lyman, a transportation planner at Greater Madison MPO, for feedback on the amendment.
Lyman says that it would be beneficial to grant money to these taxi services.
“I think that adding accessible vehicles to the overall fleet in the Madison area is critically important, that there are not enough accessible vehicles in taxi service to meet the demand.” (Lyman)
However, Lyman believes that the problem runs much deeper than the number of vehicles.
Lyman says that different accessibility focused agencies do not communicate effectively. If two people in the same area need a ride to the same place at the same time, they might go to two different places depending on their eligibility, which uses two cars.
“it builds in inefficiencies and creates these silos of what rides you are allowed to take.” (Lyman)
Lyman thinks the best solution is to increase coordination between different agencies.
“So ultimately we need to be breaking down those barriers and enabling better coordination between those agencies and allowing for the sharing of rides across funding streams.” (Lyman)
Alder Paulson has not started work on a revised amendment yet, but plans to have a more specific plan regarding accessible taxis in the spring.
Meanwhile, other amendments that were successful during previous budget negotiations will have their fate decided before the council tonight and tomorrow. Tonight’s meeting is already in progress, and you can tune in to watch at Madison’s City Channel page.
Reporting for W-O-R-T News, I’m Abigail Leavins.
Photo credit of Fantaster on Flickr.